The wait for the 40th edition of the Ryder Cup to kick off is almost over as Captains Tom Watson and Paul McGinley announced their pairings and match-ups for the opening fourball session on Friday morning. Exciting! Here’s how the line-up looks:
Match 1: Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson vs. Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson
I know Bubba and Webb have had success together as partners, but I think Rose and Stenson are a superior team and will be a very tough duo to beat. In fact, my bet is that one of those two will score the most points for the Europeans.
While Bubba and Webb are good friends, so are Rose and Stenson, which makes their partnership strong. However, the latter pair don’t have a winning record in fourballs, while the Americans do.
“More so personalities and friendships, but comes down to game at the end of the day and obviously Henrik is a wonderful player and we should gel well together,” said Rose.
But the Europeans know they have their work cut out for them.
“I’m one for one playing those guys,” said Rose. “Poults and I beat them in foursomes and I lost to them in four-ball at Medinah. A dangerous partnership and certainly no underestimating them.”
Added Stenson: “Both Justin and I are really putting our minds into it. We have to perform at a high level tomorrow if we want to win that point. That’s about it. You know, play well if you want to win points.”
Meanwhile, Webb and Bubba are looking forward to getting off to a fast start for the Americans.
“We’re excited,” said Simpson. “We love leading off. We love getting off to a quick start, and should be a good pairing for us against Rose and Stenson. They’re obviously great players. We have to go out and take care of business early.”
Match 2: Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker vs. Thomas Bjorn and Martin Kaymer
There was nearly a gasp in the press room after Kaymer’s name was NOT announced with Rory McIlroy’s. I know the two were practicing together, but I always thought it was going to be McIlroy and Sergio Garcia. (And yes, I wrote that on the record earlier this week.)
Fowler, who has stepped up for the big ones this year, and Walker, who is like a silent assassin, make an excellent partnership. I watched them play in a practice round fourball match at the Tour Championship against Jordan Spieth and Zach Johnson, and the pair made five birdies in the first six holes. Now I know that basically means sh*t — it was at a completely different venue under entirely circumstances, but it still gives me confidence in them.
Anyway, the Americans are looking forward to taking on their opponents.
“I like the pairing,” said Fowler. “I feel like we’re playing against two guys that have played well. Martin obviously with (winning) the U.S. Open, and Jimmy and I have done the same thing. Jimmy has had an awesome (season) with three wins, and I couldn’t really ask for a better partner.”
Added Walker: “I couldn’t be more happy to have Rickie has my partner. He’s not only a great golfer, he’s a good guy. I like that about him. I’m really excited to go out and grab a point with him.”
Kaymer knows he and Bjorn have their work cut out for them.
“The group that we have tomorrow is a tough one, I think, because Rickie is a good match-play player,” he said. “Jimmy Walker, obviously he’s a rookie, but that doesn’t mean much.”
Match 3: Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth vs. Stephen Gallacher and Ian Poulter
Yeah, yeah, I know Reed and Spieth are rookies, but Spieth played on two Junior Ryder Cup teams — one of which was held at Gleneagles, where they whooped Europe — and was a member of the victorious Presidents Cup team last year.
Spieth is certainly fired up.
“I don’t think you could have picked out two people that we want to play against more,” said the 21-year-old. “I mean, get out there against Ian, obviously, with his Ryder Cup history and fire. I feel like our job is to win a point. We can do that with those two guys. We’re going to really lower their team morale, I feel like. I think our match is very important in the morning. We’ll get out and get plenty of rest and be ready to go.”
I’m loving that confidence.
Reed has had success in the match play, as well. He won two NCAA Championships with Augusta State, which is played in the same format after three rounds of stroke play qualifying. As we’re well aware, Reed, aka Mr. Top 5, isn’t lacking in self-assurance, either.
A month or so ago during the FedExCup Playoffs, Spieth was paired with Reed and walked away from it, thinking he could play with him in the Ryder Cup. There was some concern prior to that over who to partner with Reed.
The biggest factor in the result of this match is Poulter’s form. While he battled an injury earlier this year, he hasn’t been playing well coming into this week, and I know everyone says he becomes a different person at the Ryder Cup, but personally, I’m not sure we’ll see the “magic” this time around. Overrated!
However, naturally, Gallacher, the local favorite, is pumped up to play with the Ryder Cup beast.
“For my first Ryder Cup, having it in Scotland, couldn’t have done better than to play with Poults — epitome of The Ryder Cup, the passion, everything it involves and he’s been there and knows what to do,” he said. “He will be a calming influence, as well. We are similar players, so just going to go out there and enjoy it and hopefully lots of birdies.”
Match 4: Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson vs. Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia
How good is that last match! Better than good! It’s phenomenal. I. Can. Not. Wait. First ball is in the air at 7:35 am BST. I’m actually excited to wake up at 5am, and I can tell you for a fact that’s the first time I’ve ever uttered those words.
Now I know Bradley and Mickelson are 5-1-1 in the match play format at the 2012 Ryder Cup and the 2013 Presidents Cup. That’s pretty darn good, but neither of them is playing very well at the moment, though they have had more rest than most players on either team.
However, both players know they have a challenging match ahead of them.
“Rory and Sergio is a really strong team,” said Bradley. “They are all strong here at the Ryder Cup, but Rory, No. 1 player in the world, and Sergio is an unbelievable Ryder Cup player. It’s going to be a fun week.”
Added Mickelson: “It’s going to be a difficult match against what we perceive as the strongest team that Europe has and I know what a great player Rory McIlroy is and I’ve played with Sergio for a number of years and know what a great player he is. We have our work cut out for us, but we’re on top of our games as well, and hopefully we’ll have a good match.”
Everyone talks about how “close” Mickelson and Bradley are, but McIlroy and Garcia are just as good of friends, if not better. They haven’t played as partners in the Ryder Cup, but it feels like a natural pairing for the two Europeans.
“Sergio is one of my closest friends on Tour and we always got a long well,” said McIlroy. “I think that it was only a matter of time before we got together in Ryder Cup and played, and what a great way to start obviously against Phil and Keegan.
“So it’s an exciting match. I again couldn’t ask for a better partner. He’s playing fantastically well. I know that I can rely on him and he’s such a solid player. So just excited for tomorrow morning.”
Garcia, who was paired with Luke Donald, played against Mickelson and Bradley in the foursomes format two years ago at the Ryder Cup at Medinah, and lost to the America’s dynamic duo 4&3, so he’s familiar with the challenge ahead of him.
“They are two players that obviously are very strong, have a lot of potential,” said Garcia. “We know how well they can play. But at the end of the day, we know how well we can play, too, and we know that if we play well — the most important thing is that we play our own game.”
Look to McIlroy and Garcia to hand Mickelson and Bradley their first loss together at the Ryder Cup.