Friday Morning Pairings: 5 quick takeaways
KOHLER, Wis. – After an extra year of waiting and days of on-site speculation, the first matches of the 43rd Ryder Cup have been announced. U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Steve Stricker and European Ryder Cup Captain Padraig Harrington each announced their lineup for Friday morning’s Foursome matches at Whistling Straits. The matches will be played as follows:
Match 1 (7:05 a.m. CT): Justin Thomas/Jordan Spieth (U.S.) vs. Jon Rahm/Sergio Garcia (Europe)
Match 2 (7:21 a.m. CT): Dustin Johnson/Collin Morikawa (U.S.) vs. Paul Casey/Viktor Hovland (Europe)
Match 3 (7:37 a.m. CT): Brooks Koepka/Daniel Berger (U.S.) vs. Lee Westwood/Matthew Fitzpatrick (Europe)
Match 4 (7:53 a.m. CT): Patrick Cantlay/Xander Schauffele (U.S.) vs. Rory McIlroy/Ian Poulter (Europe)
Now that we know who will be heading to the boisterous first tee at dawn, here are five key takeaways from how each team aligned their rosters for the opening session:
1. Both teams lead with strength
Both captains are eager to score the first point of the week, and as a result fans will be gifted with a colossal matchup at daybreak. Spieth and Thomas have a long history of match play success, both as individuals and as a pairing, and it’s no surprise to see that they’ll rekindle that friendly combination once again. Harrington isn’t hiding the fact that his squad will be relying on the world No. 1, putting out Rahm the first chance he gets. Whoever emerges from this one with their flag raised will have earned it.
2. Both teams close with strength, too
It appears that Stricker and Harrington were on a similar wavelength, as they both slotted some of their strongest players in the final match of the opening session. Cantlay and Schauffele were an expected pairing after their combined success at the 2019 Presidents Cup, while it will be difficult to top the unbridled emotion of McIlroy and Poulter on the European side. Equipped with plenty of match play experience and fully aware of what it takes to win a Ryder Cup away from home, both seasoned veterans will embrace their role as upstart underdogs in an effort to post a critical point before heading into the afternoon slate.
3. No injury issues for the Americans
The two players with the biggest question marks on the U.S. side were Koepka and Morikawa, as the former withdrew from the Tour Championship because of a wrist injury and the latter has been nursing a bad back for much of the past month. But Stricker clearly has no hesitations, sending both out in the opening session in a format where the margin for error is thin at best. It speaks to the collective belief in the U.S. Team room that they’re starting at 100 percent, and some early points would go a long way toward putting to bed the notion that either player may still be dealing with a nagging injury issue.
4. The all-Spanish duo comes to fruition
There’s no hiding from the fact that Rahm will be critical to European success this week, as the top player in the world by a wide margin and the only player on Harrington’s roster ranked inside the top 14. The lingering question, though, was who he would pair with – and the answer is an appetizing one for fans. With Rahm teaming with his countryman in Garcia, the most prolific scorer in Ryder Cup history and something of a Foursomes specialist, it sets the stage for a fiery start to the 43rd Ryder Cup and might not be the last time this week that we see the two Spaniards combine forces.
5. Veterans guiding rookies
Both captains once again appear to be on the same page by using experience to help guide the youngest players on each respective roster. Collin Morikawa may have two majors to his credit, but he hasn’t experienced the environment of a Ryder Cup. Stricker is short on veteran presence but placed him with Dustin Johnson, the elder statesman of the U.S. Team. Harrington employed a similar strategy with Norway’s first Ryder Cup participant, pairing Viktor Hovland with 44-year-old Paul Casey. Throw in the mix of Matthew Fitzpatrick, who struggled in his 2016 debut, with 48-year-old Lee Westwood and it’s clear that both captains hope to get their youngest players acclimated on the opening day by leaning on some veteran experience.