Europe sending its best out early in Ryder Cup singles

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Jose Maria Olazabal isn’t messing around in today’s singles matches at the Ryder Cup.

Facing a 10-6 deficit going into today’s final 12 matches, the European captain is sending out some of his biggest guns early in an effort to get back in the game. It’s a page out of Ben Crenshaw’s playbook in 1999 at Brookline, when he sent out his hottest players early. That year, the Americans — needing 8.5 out of a possible 12 points — won the first seven matches of the day, as Tom Lehman, Davis Love III, Phil Mickelson, Hal Sutton, David Duval, Tiger Woods, and Steve Pate immediately seized the momentum for the Americans.

Olazabal remembers that well, as he was playing Justin Leonard, who secured the Cup-clinching half-point.

When asked what his lasting memories of 1999 were, Olazabal said: “All the players after the matches were over in the locker room, and seeing I would say more than half of the players crying all together there, me included.”

So Olazabal is sending out world No. 3 Luke Donald first (vs. Bubba Watson), red-hot Ian Poulter second (vs. Webb Simpson), and world No. 1 Rory McIlroy third (vs. Keegan Bradley).

“Regarding the pairings, obviously we couldn’t hide anything,” Olazabal said. “We are trailing four points. We have to put the players that are playing well out there. We knew that they would know that.”

Of course, Love, the American captain, is trying to close out the Cup early. Watson, Simpson, Bradley and Phil Mickelson (fourth, vs. Justin Rose) are a combined 5-1 over the first two days of play.

“At the end of the day, if we want to win this match, we have take their big guns down,” Olazabal said.

Love has Steve Stricker (vs. Martin Kaymer) and Tiger Woods (vs. Francesco Molinari) in the final two matches.

“It’s hard to decide who the best six or the best eight players on your team are, and it doesn’t really matter which ones you put in which order because everybody is playing so well,” Love said. “Individually, I wouldn’t want to play anybody on our side, so we didn’t really try to match up.”

Love said one reason he put Woods at the end is he’s “used to teeing off at 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon; that’s kind of his usual time on weekend.” He also wanted a strong anchor at the end, just in case.

“I needed some stability, I think, in different spots,” Love said. “You needed guys like Tiger and Strick down towards the end.”

Here are the full pairings:

11:03 a.m.: Bubba Watson vs. Luke Donald

11:14 a.m.: Webb Simpson vs. Ian Poulter

11:25 a.m.: Keegan Bradley vs. Rory McIlroy

11:36 a.m.: Phil Mickelson vs. Justin Rose

11:47 a.m.: Brandt Snedeker vs. Paul Lawrie

11:58 a.m.: Dustin Johnson vs. Nicolas Colsaerts

12:09 p.m.: Zach Johnson vs. Graeme McDowell

12:20 p.m.: Jim Furyk vs. Sergio Garcia

12:31 p.m.: Jason Dufner vs. Peter Hanson

12:42 p.m.: Matt Kuchar vs. Lee Westwood

12:53 p.m.: Steve Stricker vs. Martin Kaymer

1:04 p.m.: Tiger Woods vs. Francesco Molinari

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