Dissecting Team Europe's Ryder Cup tactics
The 2018 European Ryder Cup team has been finalised: Paul Casey, Tommy Fleetwood, Sergio Garcia, Tyrrell Hatton, Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Alex Noren, Thorbjorn Olesen, Ian Poulter, Jon Rahm, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson.
Now Thomas Bjorn must look ahead to the 42nd edition of the biennial matches and work out which players to pair together and all the other things that come as part of being a Ryder Cup captain. The Fourball team of Mark Townsend, James Savage, Steve Carroll and Dan Murphy discuss…
Now we know the European team, how many of Bjorn’s wildcards do you expect to see on the opening morning?
Mark: I reckon Garcia will be kept back for the foursomes and maybe Poulter will also have to wait. Stenson might be a wildcard but, come the first morning, he’ll be one of the big boys and out with Rose. Which leaves Casey and, given how many rookies there are, I think he’ll also get straight out there. So two from four.
James: I wouldn’t be too surprised to see all four. Could see Poulter and Casey playing together maybe Stenson and Noren and then there’s always a chance we could see Rory and Sergio reunited. Bjorn has picked these players because he trusts them to do the job so why not get them all out as quickly as possible?
Steve: I’ll have a stab at two. I’d be stunned if Stenson isn’t in the first wave and I reckon Bjorn will find a spot for Casey as well. I know what everyone is saying about the standard of our rookies but Thomas isn’t going to blood all five in the fourballs. Garcia and Poulter have exemplary foursomes records and I think they’ll be saved until the afternoon.
Dan: I am tempted to say all four because they are all so experienced but let’s bear in mind that it’s foursomes in the afternoon. Much can change, and it’s not like I know who will be in form or slightly off-colour come the week of the match but based on where we are right now, I’m going to say Stenson, Casey and Poulter will all play in the morning with Garcia held back as a foursomes specialist.
Predict the European pairing that will win the most points at Le Golf National? David Howell thinks that Paul Casey and Rory McIlroy could get it on…
James: I’ve had a good feeling about Rose and Fleetwood. They have arguably been our best two players over the past six months. I’d be tempted to put them out first on Friday morning. They are both fantastic players and I’m not sure any American pair would relish taking them on.
Steve: You want a duo that are nailed on to play in at least three of the four sessions and that may be McIlroy and Rahm. It could be an emotional week for the Spaniard and I reckon his relentless determination may inspire McIlroy in the same way Thomas Pieters did at Hazeltine. If we also accept that we could see these two down the order – possibly avoiding the Jordan Spieth/Patrick Reed and Dustin Johnson/Brooks Koepka combinations – then there may be some glory to be had for this partnership.
Dan: Some of our veterans could end up being lightly raced due to lingering injury concerns so I’m going to steer clear of the usual suspects like Stenson and Rose. I think Fleetwood is going to be front and centre but the problem is I have no idea who he will play with. As our team’s Mr Nice Guy you could make a case for him alongside just about anyone. For some reason, I imagine him pairing up with Rory but that’s probably just because they both wear Nike clothes. And on that basis, it’s McIlroy/Fleetwood.
Mark: It would have to be someone who plays in at least four matches so I think that leaves McIlroy, Fleetwood, Rose, Molinari or maybe Rahm. I can’t work out who the Spaniard is going to play with, what he’s like and how he’ll take to the matches so I’ll go with our Open champion. He’s never won a match so he should be a nice price and he’s such a different player to other years.
So who does the team think won’t get much of a game in Paris? And which two players have no chance of being paired together? Fourball continues on the next page…