Any clues from first practice groupings?
Team Europe are out on the course for their first practice session of the week with some intriguing groupings
The opening practice session of Ryder Cup week is underway with the European Team first to take to Medinah’s No.3 course, and the three groupings may give the first clues as to potential pairings.
An all-English group one features Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Luke Donald and Justin Rose; group two consists of Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, Paul Lawrie and Sergio Garcia; while the final practice group is completed by the four remaining team members in Martin Kaymer, Nicolas Colsaerts, Francesco Molinari and Peter Hanson.
Poulter and Rose are firm friends both on and off the course, and the compatriots formed a profitable alliance at Valhalla in 2008 – the scene of Rose’s only previous appearance at The Ryder Cup – where the pair claimed two points from three matches together, so they could potentially be a dangerous duo come the competition days.
If one was to read into the practice groups for Tuesday then Donald and Westwood could also be set to reprise their pairing from the Session Three Foursomes at Celtic Manor, where the Englishmen completed a 6&5 destruction of Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods on the day that became known as ‘Super Sunday’.
In group two, meanwhile, McDowell and McIlroy’s incredibly close friendship and bond means theirs is one of the most-fancied pairings at Medinah and they will get another chance to enhance their golfing compatibility on the No. 3 Course on Tuesday. In 2010, the Northern Irish pair captured 1 ½ from three contests in Wales.
It is 13 years since Lawrie made his Ryder Cup debut at Brookline, and he will be hoping to forge as lucrative a partnership in 2012 as he did that year with Colin Montgomerie. The Scot picked up 2 ½ points from their four ties in 1999, while Garcia – the last member of Tuesday’s second practice group – has on numerous occasions shown his superb ability to garner points in the team formats, previously with Westwood and Donald, but perhaps in 2012 a partnership with in-form Lawrie could spell points for Team Europe.
Kaymer, playing in the final practice group on Tuesday, was undefeated in his two foursomes and one fourball match in his rookie year of 2010, winning 2 ½ points out of three with Poulter and Westwood, and he could potentially line up with debutant Colserts – the first Belgian to play in The Ryder Cup.
Italy’s Molinari, however, played exclusively with his brother Edoardo in 2010, when the siblings claimed a priceless half point in the third session Fourballs, but the consistent Turin man, one of the straightest hitters in European golf and statistically sound from tee to green, could be the perfect foil for Sweden’s Hanson, who ranks in the upper echelons of the putting statistics on The European Tour.
It’s only their first foray onto the course and Olazábal is sure to mix things around throughout the practice days, but the first official practice day of The 2012 Ryder Cup has already sparked speculation around the potential pairings.