MEDINAH, Ill. — The 39th Ryder Cup finally gets under way at 8:20 a.m. ET on Friday and here are the pairings for the opening Foursomes. Following are previews of the matches.
Match 1: Rory McIlroy & Grame McDowell (Europe) vs. Jim Furyk & Brandt Snedeker (U.S.)
EUROPE RECORDS: McIlroy (4-2-2 overall, 1-1-1 in Foursomes); McDowell (4-2-2 overall, 0-1-1 Foursomes)
U.S. RECORDS: Furyk (8-15-4, 3-5-2 Foursomes); Snedeker (0-0-0, 0-0-0)
QUICK LOOK: This match features the hottest two players in the game in McIlroy, the world No. 1 who has won three of his last five starts, and Brandt Snedeker, who won the FedExCup on Sunday. McIlroy and McDowell are good friends and have history together after going 1-1-1 at Celtic Manor two years ago. Interestingly, though, the Northern Irishmen’s loss came in Foursomes by a 1-up margin to Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar. Furyk should be a steadying influence on the excitable Snedeker, a Ryder Cup rookie who is a putting machine, which should stand him well in this match. U.S. Captain Davis Love said he also wanted to get Snedeker off first because he is a very quick player.
QUOTABLE: “These guys are not really rookies. Brandt Snedeker has been playing as well as anybody since the Open Championship and he’s hot. Got him with a guy that’s got a lot of experience.” Davis Love II … “We have similar styles and I admire his game and the way he’s played this year; good short game, good putter and I’m looking forward to playing with him.” Jim Furyk … “I think my game stacks up against anybody’s right now and I think Jim’s does, too, so we are going to give them a hard match tomorrow and try to get that win.” Brandt Snedeker. … “We are going to use the world No. 1’s power and precision, and I will just knock a few tap-ins in.” Graeme McDowell. …”To be honest, they are not the opponents we were expecting. We know that their team is so strong, but it was a little surprise to see a rookie in the first group.” Rory McIlroy … “I was expecting Phil and Keegan to go first and it will be a great match no matter who we are playing. Jim is a hell of a player, a seasoned campaigner, and Brandt is obviously on a hell of a high after last week and winning the FedExCup.” McDowell.
Match 2: Luke Donald & Sergio Garcia (Europe) vs. Phil Mickelson & Keegan Bradley (U.S.)
EUROPE RECORDS: Luke Donald (8-2-1 overall, 6-0-0); Sergio Garcia (14-6-4 overall, 8-0-1 Foursomes)
U.S. RECORDS: Phil Mickelson (11-17-6, 2-5-4); Keegan Bradley (0-0-0, 0-0-0 Foursomes)
QUICK LOOK: This is a baptism by fire for Bradley, who is playing in his first Ryder Cup. Each of the Europeans is unbeaten in Foursomes — and the two good friends have won four times in this format as partners. One of those wins came in 2006 by a 3 and 2 margin over Mickelson and David Toms. They are formidable opponents, and Donald, who has lived in Chicago for 15 years, should have at least some of the crowd on his side. Mickelson, though, has taken Bradley under his wing for just such an opportunity as this one. The two were the first players on the course on Thursday, and Bradley says he plays better after a practice round match with Mickelson. He’ll need to be at his best if the Americans are to pull off the upset.
QUOTABLE: “Obviously, Phil has a lot of experience and Keegan is a rookie but it’s not a pairing that surprises you because they play a lot of golf together and know each other well. But we’ve had some success against Phil before and hopefully we can again tomorrow.” Luke Donald. …”They are two very good players and it will be a tough match, but they are also two players that sometimes might not always hit it straight. But we are just going to focus on our own games and hopefully we can win the point for Europe.” Sergio Garcia … “(Keegan’s) energy gets me excited and helps me stay focused on the next shot and get up for the match.” Phil Mickelson. … “I pride myself on hitting fairways and Phil’s a great iron player so that seems to match up. … He’s easy to partner with and I know if I just get him anywhere on that green, he’s got a chance to make it.” Keegan Bradley
PREDICTION: Europe 1 up.
Match 3: Lee Westwood & Francesco Molinari (Europe) vs. Zach Johnson & Jason Dufner (U.S.)
EUROPE RECORDS: Westwood (16-11-6 overall, 7-2-4 Foursomes); Molinari (0-2-1 overall, 0-1-0 Foursomes)
U.S. RECORDS: Johnson (3-3-1 overall, 1-2-1 Foursomes), Dufner (0-0-0 overall, 0-0-0 Foursomes)
QUICK LOOK: Molinari and Johnson faced each other in Foursomes two years ago with the American teaming with Hunter Mahan for a 2-up victory over the European and his brother Edoardo. The Italian, who won his third European Tour event earlier this year, will find a steadying influence in Westwood, who’ll hit fairways and find greens like clockwork. Molinari is Westwood’s seventh different partner. Johnson and Dufner have complementary low-key personalities, as well as games. Dufner, who picked up his first two wins earlier this year, may be a rookie but he has ice-water in his veins.
QUOTABLE: "We kind of knew going into it we wanted to play together, and Davis liked how it fit. Ultimately it’s certainly not our decision, but he wanted our input, and we thought it would be good for a number of reasons — similar games, similar demeanors. I’m pretty calm and cool out there. He might be borderline dead but I think it’s a good thing," Zach Johnson. … "He’s going to guide me around a little bit, I think, and he’s a good little rock to lean on," Jason Dufner. … “Francesco brings a lot of accuracy to the partnership. We are going to be very steady and consistent and hopefully very hard to beat. You can give holes away very easily in Foursomes.” Lee Westwood. … “I hope I live up to the expectations he has and everyone has on the team.” Francesco Molinari. … “We have strength all the way through and they do, too. So it’s important to get off to a fast start as a team and get a lot of blue on the board early to silence the crowd.” Les Westwood.
PREDICTION: Americans win 3 and 2
Match 4: Ian Poulter & Justin Rose (Europe) vs. Steve Stricker & Tiger Woods (U.S.)
EUROPE RECORDS: Poulter (8-3-0 overall, 2-1-0 Foursomes); Rose (3-1-0 overall, 2-0-0 Foursomes)
U.S. RECORDS: Stricker (11-8-0 overall, 4-3-0), Woods (13-14-2 overall, 4-7-1 Foursomes)
QUICK LOOK: Think this match doesn’t get both team rooms excited? Poulter and Stricker are well-acquainted — the Englishman won their Singles match in 2008 and teamed with Rose to beat Stricker and Ben Curtis in Four-balls that year. That said, Stricker and Woods got the better of Poulter and Ross Fisher in Four-balls in 2010 and Woods teamed with Chris Riley to beat Poulter and Darren Clarke in 2004. So there’s plenty motivation to go around. Stricker and Woods are 1-1 in Ryder Cup Foursomes but won two alternate shot matches while going 4-0 at the 2009 Presidents Cup. Rose and Poulter are fast friends who used to room together years ago on the European Challenge Tour. Woods and Rose share a teacher and have played quite a bit together over the years, as well.
QUOTABLE: "Strick and I are very comfortable together. We’ve had some pretty good success over the years, and we both have been playing well. … We’ve got a great match-up in Rosey and Poults." Tiger Woods … “We are friends and we get along with one another and we have a good time with one another. It’s always fun to go out with a friend.” Steve Stricker. … “I hinted to Justin, just before going on stage, that it was my gut feeling we would get Tiger and Strick and that is what we have got. Tiger and Strick are a good pairing and they are going to come at us with all guns blazing and will have the local support, obviously, and we know we will have to play well the beat them.” Ian Poulter. … “The butterflies will be flying in the morning, that’s for sure and I’d be lying if I said they wouldn’t be. But that’s part and parcel of the Ryder Cup experience – it is about harnessing that and turning that into adrenalin and good golf.” Justin Rose. … “I have two fantastic new pillows in my room this week so I’ve had not problem sleeping at all … tonight will be now different.” Ian Poulter
PREDICTION: Europe wins 2 and 1