Sep
26
2014
2014 Ryder Cup: Friday morning round-up and afternoon foursomes predictions
By Stephanie Wei under Ryder Cup

The Captains have set their lineup for the Friday afternoon foursomes and the matches have also been determined. For the few of you not familiar with this format, foursomes is the fancy word that golf’s powers-that-be or someone in Scotland decided to call “alternate shot.” It’s the most entertaining to watch and the toughest to play. It’s the format that really turns golf into a team sport. Simply, it’s awesome.

But I digress. Here are the pairings/matches for the second session in the 40th edition of the Ryder Cup. 

Match 1: Jamie Donaldson/Lee Westwood vs. Jim Furyk/Matt Kuchar
Prediction: USA

Donaldson has been playing well, but as we know, Westwood was having trouble finding the center of the club face the last few months. So, unfortunately for Donaldson, he might have to play Westwood’s errant shots.

Meanwhile, Jim Furyk is arguably the hottest player on the American team, with four top-10s in his last five starts, including a tie for second at the Tour Championship less than two weeks ago. However, Furyk doesn’t have the best record at the biennial matches against Europe. In fact, it’s one of the worst in American history at 9-17-4. He’s 4-6-2 in the foursomes format.

But I like the pairing of Furyk and Kuchar, who is Mr. Reliable or Mr. Top-10. They’re both steady, consistent players, with somewhat similar games. They don’t get into much trouble. They don’t hit it a long ways, but they’re relatively accurate. Furyk leads the American team in greens in regulation and scrambling, while Kuchar’s biggest strength is that he doesn’t have any massive weaknesses.

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Match 2: Justin Rose/Henrik Stenson vs. Hunter Mahan/Zach Johnson
Prediction: Europe

After Rose and Stenson routed Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson 5&4 (not that it was too hard), why would you bet against them? Rose made three birdies in the morning, while Stenson posted two of them, which was offset by a bogey.

Rose was the stronger player in the fourball match by a slight margin, as Stenson looked a little shaky with the driver at times. But, this is a long golf course and Stenson is one of the longest hitters on Tour. The pair obviously appear to complement each other well. And we have no reason to think they won’t continue to do just that.

I’m not sure what to expect from Mahan and Johnson — they’re a little like Furyk and Kuchar, who are both consistent and steady players, but with the exception of Mahan winning the Barclays, neither has done a whole lot to brag about lately. It’d be huge for the American momentum to steal at least a half point from this match, though. Fingers crossed.

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Match 3: Rory McIlroy/Sergio Garcia vs. Jimmy Walker/Rickie Fowler
Prediction: Europe

This is my favorite match-up of the afternoon. It’s a tough call, but how do you go against Europe’s power duo, which includes the world nos. 1 and 3? McIlroy struggled a bit with his putter in the morning, so hopefully he can get that going — and actually, Sergio did, too. They didn’t play poorly, but they certainly could have done better. I walked with them for the first 10 holes this morning and they just didn’t seem to be able to convert and score as well as they should have. The pair weren’t able to carry the momentum when the Americans got off to a relatively slow start, but I’d still rate Sergio and Rory’s play as pretty well to well. Plus, they’re both excellent ballstrikers, so their games should complement each other nicely.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Walker showed the world that he’s not to be underestimated. As I’ve been saying for a few weeks, he’s a silent assassin and he showed that on Friday morning. His back might be a little sore after carrying Fowler on his back for most of the day. The Americans won two of the last three to steal a half point against Kaymer and Bjorn. Walker chipped in twice, including at a crucial moment on no. 16 to win the hole. Then, he drained an eight-footer for birdie on no. 18 to win the hole and halve the match. But I think since they’re playing alternate shot, they might struggle against Sergio and Rory, unless Rickie turns the momentum around and starts playing a little better.

Nonetheless, this should be a thrilling match to watch.

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Match 4: Victor Dubuisson/Graeme McDowell vs. Phil Mickelson/Keegan Bradley
Prediction: Europe

This prediction might come to a surprise to most American fans, but Mickelson couldn’t find a fairway in the morning fourballs. How Sergio and Rory didn’t rout Phil and Keegan is still a bit of a mystery to me — well, oh wait, they couldn’t make a putt to save their lives.

But, remember, this is a lot of golf for anyone, and it’s even tougher for Phil, an arthritic 44-year-old. Keegan, who has the hot putter, can only carry Phil so far.

They’re also playing against a fresh European duo, as G-Mac and Dubuisson both sat out this morning. Plus, I’m convinced Dubuisson is going to play awesome, especially if the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship is anything to go by (yes, yes, I know, it was in February, but still, the guy has balls). The Frenchman is also a longer hitter, which will help G-Mac’s short punts off the tee.

While G-Mac hasn’t played well lately, nor did he do anything to write home about in the 2012 Ryder Cup, he’s a leader, who is excellent for team morale and motivation.

This should be a close one, though, and definitely an entertaining match to watch.

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Crap, I just realized that I picked Europe to win three of the four matches this afternoon. But when I saw the draw, my first reaction was, “We’re in trouble.”

It’s absolutely baffling that Captain Tom Watson decided to sit the dynamic duo of rookies, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, after they won the first point for Team USA, crushing Ryder Cup hero Ian Poulter and home favorite Stephen Gallacher 5&4.

I. Just. Don’t. Get. It.

Granted Poulter and Gallacher didn’t play well, Spieth and Reed certainly didn’t shank their way to a 5&4 drubbing. Why wouldn’t you want to keep their momentum and confidence going? They’re also the two youngest players on the American team at only 21 and 25 years old, so there’s no need to “rest” them.

I’m looking forward to the explanation from Captain Watson. But, the good news is the Americans managed to steal the first session from the Europeans. After a slow start, the U.S. team managed to turn it around and snag the momentum, winning the Friday morning fourballs at 2.5 to 1.5 points.

Oh, on a selfish note, the best part are my bet slips, one of which accurately predicted the aforementioned point total at the end of the first session. I also correctly predicted the first and third fourball matches. I almost got the second one, too, but I don’t win anything for a halve.

To close, here’s a random musing:  Jimmy Walker is my new favorite American player.

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Results of Session One:

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