The 41st Ryder Cup is finally here. A chance for redemption for the United States after choking away the last Ryder Cup on American soil four years ago. A chance to continue the dominance for the Europeans, who have won eight of the last 10 Cups. Will the pods work again for Team USA? What about the massive amount of rookies for the Euros? Will Patrick Reed break out a new shushing motion for the home crowd? How badly will Danny Willett get heckled for his brother’s comments?
All of that will finally begin to come into focus on Friday morning as the matches officially get underway. Here’s our look at the morning Foursomes matches at Hazeltine National Golf Club:
Match 1, 7:35 a.m. CT
Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed (USA) vs. Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson (Europe)
What Surprised Us: Not a whole lot here on either side. DL3 almost is forced (now, without Bubba on the squad) to send Reed out first to get the blood flowing for the Americans – and the crowd. Spieth is the perfect Yin to Reed’s Yang, as we saw in 2014 at Gleneagles. (They won 2 ½ out of a possible three points in the team competition together.)
What Didn’t: Who the Americans will face out of the gate. Europe traditionally front-loads its teams, and frankly there is no better pairing to toss out at the start than Rose-Stenson. That’s the gold and silver medalists, for those keeping score at home. Oh, and in 2014, Rose-Stenson (sounds like a law firm, right?) put up a clean sheet: three matches together, three full points.
The Number: 10
As in 10 years – or the amount of time that has eclipsed since the Americans have earned a full point in the first match of a Ryder Cup. In 2006 at Celtic Manor, Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk bested Padraig Harrington and Colin Montgomerie. Of course, the Euros smoked the Americans, 18 ½ to 9 ½.
Who Wins: Halved
If either team is more than 1-up at any point, color us stunned.
Match 2, 7:50 a.m. CT
Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler (USA) vs. Rory McIlroy and Andy Sullivan (Europe)
What Surprised Us: Mickelson going out in the morning. He’s not terrible in foursomes (4-6-4 record all time), but his mark in four-balls (7-8-2) is much better. Guess here is that given the heat Fowler has taken since being named a captain’s pick, Mickelson’s geniality might absorb some of the heat being thrown his partner’s way should Rickie falter out of the gate.
What Didn’t: Rory McIlroy batting second. If Rose-Stenson is the strongest team Darren Clarke can thrown at the Americans, following that up with the hottest player in the game seems like a good bet. Rookie Andy Sullivan will be at ease, and will frankly just be asked not to get in the way. The possibility of getting two full points out of the four early-morning matches is a real one for the Euros.
The Number: 0
That would be the number of matches that Phil Mickelson lost the last time he was paired with a young gun (Keegan Bradley) at a Ryder Cup. Lefty went 3-0-0 at Medinah paired with Bradley, including a 7&6 smashing of Lee Westwood and Luke Donald.
Who Wins: Europe
McIlroy is too good right now – he might be able to win this match by himself.
Match 3, 8:05 a.m. CT
Jimmy Walker and Zach Johnson (USA) vs. Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer (Europe)
What Surprised Us: It went unnoticed because of the collapse of 2012, but ZJ was a bulldog in the Cup. But the third match always seems to be a place where captains can stick a player/team they feel is week. Walker (remember him?) and Johnson seems like a stretch of a pairing,
What Didn’t: Serrrrrrrrrrrrrgio! Specifically, him playing in foursomes. This is his eighth Ryder Cup appearance, and will be the 14th time that he will lace ‘em up in this format. Well, he might be Europe’s best at it. Sergio is 9-2-2 in foursomes, which should help balance out Kaymer who has been a dud in this match type (0-0-2 lifetime) and set up the Euros for a legit shot to take points in each of the firs t three matches.
The Number: 20.5
The Euros has two players on their roster who have won more than 20 points for their team (Lee Westwood’s 23 points in nine appearances is tops), but Sergio is second with 20.5 points in seven showings. Compare that to the most on the American side – Phil Mickelson’s 19 (in 10 Cups) – and you see why these lads have dominated this event of late.
Who Wins: Europe
Something tells us Johnson and Walker might be one of those pairings that just don’t work out.
Match 4, 8:20 a.m. CT
Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar (USA) vs. Lee Westwood and Thomas Pieters (Europe)
What Surprised Us: Not seeing Danny Willett with Westwood and in the morning. Darren Clarke’s thinking here is to let the matches start to play themselves out in the morning before throwing Willett (who will undoubtedly be the target of hecklers all weekend) to the wolves. But wouldn’t the better play have been to pair him with a fellow countrymate, at the back end of the morning, before the place is whipped into a frenzy in the afternoon?
What Didn’t: Team USA’s “Beauty and the Beast” pairing is perfect harmony – Johnson’s ability to mash it off the tee, coupled with Kuchar’s tactical ability should be able to provide the constant drumbeat to get a lead on the Europeans. Pieters is a burgeoning talent, but with three other veterans in this match, he might be a bit in over his head for his first showing at a Ryder Cup.
The Number: 4
Number of rookies Europeans have sent out in the last two Ryder Cups, producing a 6-6-1 record.
Who Wins: United States
Kuchar and DJ have the feel of a pairing that DL3 may stick with all weekend long.