With the 2006 Ryder Cup at Ireland’s K Club now just four weeks away, US skipper Tom Lehman has decided to take team on a reconnaissance mission to the venue on Monday and Tuesday next week. It is seen as a part team bonding and part fact finding mission, and Lehman has been boosted by the news yesterday that his two most high profile stars, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, have agreed to take part in the trip.

The two men (pictured at last week’s USPGA Championship) had initially been tipped to miss the flight to Ireland, but both have now rearranged their prior commitments to ensure that Lehman’s entire squad will be present. One of the reasons cited for Europe’s record victory over the US in the 2004 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills was a perceived lack of team spirit on the American team, and so Lehman is clearly delighted to have successfully organised next week’s trip.

“It’s worth its weight in gold,” Lehman said of the trip on Thursday.

“Guys have families and they have made plans but have altered them, which shows a real commitment. While it’s nice to fly in a chartered plane the bottom line is that it’s a sacrifice to do it. Everyone is going to know that they are paying the price, committing and doing the right thing as a team.”

It was originally thought that Woods would miss the trip due to a prior engagement with his charity, The Tiger Woods Foundation. However, after carding a 67 in the opening round of the WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone yesterday he confirmed that he and all of his colleagues would be on the plane.

“I’m going – we all are,” he told the press.

“I’ve had to reschedule a couple of things. I’ve seen the K Club, but for me the trip is mainly to be with the guys. We are going there as a team – to hang out, play some golf and relax. I can pass on a few titbits to the others because I’ve played there.”

The Ryder Cup runs from September 22-24. Europe, who have been installed as 8/11 favourites to retain the trophy, will be announcing their final team on September 3rd. Log on to www.golf-monthly.co.uk for all the best build-up to the event and for the best coverage when the tournament begins.