Throughout Europe’s previous Ryder Cup victories, formidable partnerships have been the bedrock of success. The 1997 Captain Seve Ballesteros will always be linked with fellow countryman Jose María Olazábal for their potency as a duo, claiming a record 12 points as a pair in their four Ryder Cups together from 1987 to 1993.
Darren Clarke will be hoping for similar partnerships to form in Hazeltine this month, with the following potential pairings options that the Northern Irishman might explore in a bid to lead Europe to a fourth successive victory.
Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick
With captain’s pick Westwood an experienced Ryder Cup player, Clarke may be tempted to pair him with compatriot and Ryder Cup rookie Fitzpatrick. Westwood, in his tenth appearance, could be called upon to offer guidance to three-time European Tour winner Fitzpatrick, who was part of Clarke’s team at the EurAsia Cup earlier this year.
Westwood, who has amassed 23 points in his previous appearances, has had recent success partnering Ryder Cup debutants, earning points alongside Nicolas Coslaerts at Medinah in 2012 and Jamie Donaldson in 2014.
Sergio Garcia and Rafa Cabrera Bello
If the Spanish duo of Garcia and Cabrera Bello can have a similar impact to the one made by compatriots Ballesteros and Olazábal, Europe will be delighted. While Garcia earned one-and-a-half points partnering Rory McIlroy at Gleneagles, Clarke could decide to pair the Spanish natives in an attempt to ease the pressure on rookie Cabrera Bello’s shoulders.
With 20.5 points to his name in seven appearances, Garcia could be the right man to partner the talented two-time European Tour winner Cabrera Bello to victory.
Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson
There might not be another pairing on this Ryder Cup team who will know each other better than Rose and Stenson. Not only are they former neighbours, but they share a proven track record in the six Ryder Cup appearances accumulated between them.
They won all three of their matches at Gleneagles two years ago, defeating Bubba Watson, Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar along the way. Their shared experience in the final round of the 2016 Olympic Games will also have brought them closer together, meaning this is a partnership to be feared by those in stars and stripes.
Rory McIlroy and Andy Sullivan
Despite being three years younger than Sullivan, McIlroy has a wealth of Ryder Cup experience that will be invaluable to the Englishman on his Ryder Cup debut. Having amassed eight points from 14 matches in total, the four-time Major winner can offer Sullivan the kind of direction he may need coming up against experienced American opponents.
The duo have played practice rounds this season, too, highlighting the relationship that already exists between them. However, Sullivan’s effervescent nature will also be important, injecting a vibrancy to this partnership that could prove a calming influence in moments of pressure.
Martin Kaymer and Danny Willett
The temptation to pair two Major Championship winners together might be too great for Clarke to resist. Between them, Kaymer and Willett have captured three of the four most sought after prizes in stroke play golf, including the latter’s nerveless display to capture the Green Jacket at the Masters in April.
Kaymer, winner of the 2010 US PGA Championship and the 2014 US Open, has three Ryder Cup appearances to his name and famously holed the winning putt at Medinah four years ago. Two of Kaymer’s four points have come in a pairing, meaning his know-how of operating successfully alongside a team-mate may provide Willett with the platform he needs to shine.