Mahan paired with Woods in U.S. team practice

Wales:Tiger Woods was paired with Hunter Mahan in official practice for the Ryder Cup on Tuesday, offering the first clue as to the world number one`s partner for Friday`s opening fourball matches against Europe.

The 14-times major champion has played with multiple American partners in his previous five Ryder Cups and Jim Furyk or Steve Stricker were regarded as his likeliest ahead of this year`s edition.

Woods and Furyk gelled well at the 2006 Ryder Cup in Ireland while the world number one and Stricker were unbeaten in four matches together at last year`s Presidents Cup at Harding Park.

United States captain Corey Pavin has so far kept his cards close to his chest, although he is almost certain to have his opening fourball pairings finalised by now.

"I have a very good idea of what we`re going to do," Pavin told reporters at Celtic Manor. "We`ve talked about it quite a bit and the players have an idea of the direction that I`m going to go.

"But there`s no reason for me, as far as I`m concerned, to discuss it too much until I actually write the pairings down on paper and turn them in (on Thursday)."

Woods, a wildcard pick for the first time following a mediocre year by his usual standards, is more concerned about his own game readiness at Celtic Manor.

"I`m not sure who I will play with; it keeps changing," he wrote in a blog last week. "I just have to take care of my own business and be ready to play."


Thick fog delayed the scheduled start of Tuesday`s first official practice session by one-and-a-half hours before the two teams set off in fourball groupings on the Twenty Ten course.

A smiling Woods was the first of the U.S. players to arrive on the first tee and he was warmly greeted by whistles and cheers before he struck a superb tee shot down the first fairway.

Partner Mahan followed suit before their fourball opponents Zach Johnson and Stricker teed off.

Huge galleries watched as Woods, Johnson and Mahan hit pinpoint approaches to within 10 feet of the flag before all four players tested the pace of the green with putts from various angles.

In Pavin`s other groups, Furyk and Jeff Overton were pitted against Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar while Phil Mickelson and rookie Rickie Fowler took on big hitters Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson.

On the other side of the course as sunshine finally broke through the leaden cloud cover, European captain Colin Montgomerie sent out his players in fairly predictable groups.

Italian brothers Edoardo and Francesco Molinari set off from the 11th tee in a match against Northern Irishmen Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy.

Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez and Swede Peter Hanson took on British world number three Lee Westwood and Germany`s Martin Kaymer while Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher played against fellow Englishman Luke Donald and Irishman Padraig Harrington.

Bureau Report