x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Faldo has his rivals guessing strategy

William Johnson Nick Faldo, the European Ryder Cup captain, continued his game of cat and mouse with his American counterpart Paul Azinger yesterday by sending out players from the same country as pairs during the morning practice session. Padraig Harrington had a cross-border link with fellow Irishman Graeme McDowell, while the two Swedes Henrik Stenson and Robert Karlsson teamed up, as did the two Spaniards Sergio Garcia and Miguel Angel Jimenez.

Four of the five English players in the 12-man team went out together, Paul Casey with rookie Oliver Wilson and Ian Poulter teaming up with Justin Rose. The other English representative, Lee Westwod, partnered Danish newcomer Soren Hansen as Faldo sought to keep Azinger guessing about his formation for the opening foursomes tomorrow morning and the fourballs in the afternoon. Westwood, meanwhile, has thrown his hat into the ring for the European captaincy. Still only 35, he is hoping for several more playing years before seeking the honour eventually.

"I would enjoy taking on that role," he said. "I've got a lot of experience playing in Ryder Cups and got a lot to give back, and sometime in the future, I would hope it would be my turn to be captain." He believes his work this week as a mentor for the rookies in the European team will stand him in good stead. "I think showing that kind of responsibility when you are one of the more experienced players is a lead on to that [the captaincy]," he added.

Westwood has been cautious, however, about taking too much interest in how the current team operate. "Nick's [Faldo] got far more experience than me and so has Jose [Maria Olazabal, the vice-captain] , so I have left it up to them really." @Email:wjohnson@thenational.ae