Possible Pairings take shape at Ryder Cup
Fans may not need to wait until Thursday afternoon to figure out the much anticipated pairings for the opening session of the 43rd Ryder Cup. Instead, a look at the practice and press conference schedules for both the U.S. and European Teams provides a bit of insight into who Captain Steve Stricker and Padraig Harrington may pair together come Friday.
Tuesday, Captain Stricker gave the first indication of using a possible pod system, as successfully first implemented by Paul Azinger in the Ryder Cup in 2008. The concept of the pod system groups four players together, who will then interchange pairings within that group throughout the first two days of the Ryder Cup.
Tuesday, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Bryson DeChambeau and Scottie Scheffler were scheduled in the same press conference window. Following their meeting with the media, the foursome also played a practice round together. The reunion of Thomas and Spieth would be a welcome pairing for the U.S. Team as the duo won three of the four sessions in which they played together at Le Golf National in 2018. Thomas and Spieth are scheduled to play a practice round together again on Wednesday.
Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa were also grouped together for a practice round on Tuesday. That same foursome is scheduled to meet with the media on Wednesday. Which of these players could wind up playing together is very much a wildcard as Johnson is the only returning member of this group with Schauffele, Cantlay and Morikawa all making their Ryder Cup debut. However, Schauffele and Cantlay did team up together at the Presidents Cup in 2019 in which the duo played in four matches. Wednesday, Schauffele and Cantlay are also scheduled to play a practice round together alongside Thomas and Spieth.
And in the third practice round on Tuesday, Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau, Daniel Berger and Harris English played together. This same group is scheduled to meet with the media on Thursday. Koepka and Finau teamed up together at Le Golf National in 2018, when they won their opening Four-Ball match 1 up over Justin Rose and Jon Rahm. But Captain Stricker appears to continue exploring possible pairings as Finau and Berger will play a practice round alongside Koepka and Scheffler.
Captain Harrington followed a similar model in structuring his media schedule by also grouping his players in three groups of four players.
Tuesday, Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia were scheduled together. Veterans Westwood and Garcia have made for a formidable pairing for the European Team dating all the way back to The Belfry in 2002. The duo won three of the four matches in which they competed together. Westwood and Garcia reunited again at Oakland Hills in 2004 when they went undefeated. Their possible reunion for the 43rd Ryder Cup would be the first time we see these two play together since Valhalla in 2008.
Wednesday, Ian Poulter, Shane Lowry, Tommy Fleetwood and Bernd Wiesberger are scheduled to meet together with the media. And on Thursday, Paul Casey, Matt Fitzpatrick, Tyrrell Hatton and Jon Rahm have the final press conference for Team Europe.
But like Captain Stricker, Harrington continues to explore additional possible pairings ahead of Friday. On Wednesday, practice groups were changed up quite a bit compared to Tuesday. Rahm, Garcia, Lowry and Hatton will play in the first practice session for Europe, followed by Casey, Westwood, McIlroy and Poulter. The third practice group for the European Team includes Wiesberger, Hovland, Fleetwood and Fitzpatrick.