Ryder Cup: Europe look like edging opening day foursomes
Philip Reid breaks down the opening day foursomes competition at Hazeltine
The first hole marker at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota, USA. Photograph: PA
13.35pm (Irish time) Speith and Reed v Stenson and Rose
No surprise that Clarke should stick with the strong-arm pairing of Rose and Stenson who bonded better than superglue at Gleneagles in 2014.
The Englishman and the Swede have been in terrific form this season, Stenson winning the British Open and the pair going down the stretch in the Olympics in Rio, before Rose emerged victorious.
The two Texans will be tough, gritty competitors and know each others’ games extremely well having grown up playing junior golf together before hitting the big time.
Europe, though, have an edge in length off the tee which could be the decisive factor.
Rose has a terrific record in foursomes, having won four, halved one and lost only one in his previous six Ryder Cup appearances. Verdict: Europe
13.50pm Mickelson and Fowler v McIlroy and Sullivan
A tough opener for McIlroy and Sullivan. For sure, Mickelson – whose remarks in Gleneagles about Tom Watson’s captaincy sparked the review which led to the establishment of a task force – will be under pressure to deliver.
Fowler will be under more pressure as he has yet to win a single match in his previous Ryder Cup appearances.
In terms of being blooded into the Ryder Cup, Sullivan couldn’t have asked for a better partnership than with the in-form McIlroy who is bounding with confidence after his FedEx Cup win and who is keen to play a leader’s role in this Ryder Cup.
The Northern Irishman is the best tee-to-green player in the world and, now that he has found a trusted putter in the Scotty Cameron mallet prototype, is bringing that game to the greens too. Verdict: Halved
14.05pm Walker and Z Johnson v Garcia and Kaymer
You can imagine that every player in the European team room was putting up a hand to have Sergio Garcia as a partner.
The Spaniard comes alive at the Ryder Cup and has walked the walk so often. As a foursomes player, Garcia has a fabulous record: Played 13 Won 9 Lost 2 Halved 2.
Clarke might have considered keeping his successful partnership from Gleneagles with McIlroy but has opted to pair him with captain’s pick Kaymer which is a new one.
The USA pairing of Walker and Zach Johnson will be steady. Walker was partnered with Fowler for all sessions of foursomes and fourballs on his debut at Gleneagles but had to wait until the singles to find a win.
As the recently crowned US PGA champion, he’ll be aiming for a better return this time. Verdict: Europe
14.20pm D Johnson and Kuchar v Pieters and Westwood
No better man than Westwood to have as an anchor for ‘wild card’ rookie Pieters, with the Belgian’s long game likely to be a valued asset especially in having to face up to Dustin Johnson’s prodigious length off the tee.
May seem a risky alliance in a way, as the expectation was that Westwood would partner Danny Willett who will have to wait until the fourballs – if selected – to get going.
Johnson and Kuchar are a brand new foursomes partnership. In his one and only previous foursomes outing at the Ryder Cup, Johnson was paired with Phil Mickelson at Celtic Manor in 2010 but lost to Padraig Harrington and Ross Fisher.
Johnson is a much more mature and better player these days – as he showed in winning the US Open – and his all-round game has improved. Verdict: USA