Analysing the Ryder Cup fourballs opening pairingsSeptember 27, 2018 Opinion
We go deep on the captains' opening-day fourball pairings for the Ryder Cup
NCG’s Dan Murphy and Mark Townsend spent most of the build-up agonising over which players were going to be paired together in the opening session of the Ryder Cup fourballs.
Well, their wait is over.
Mark runs the rule over the American pairings – who, as the away team, will have the honour on the 1st tee in all matches – while Dan assesses their European opponents.
It’s game on for the opening Ryder Cup fourballs.
Ryder Cup fourballs: Match 1
8.10am (7.10am UK time)
Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau (USA) vs. Justin Rose and Jon Rahm (Europe)
USA: We sort of knew that Koepka and Finau would be paired together the longer the week went on. Initially Koepka and DJ had been pencilled in, which might still be the plan, but to send these two out top is quite a surprise, what with Finau being one of three rookies on the USA team.
The two of them had never played together before the start of the FedEx Playoffs and then they couldn’t be separated. Now we know why.
On paper it might look a strange partnership, the other way to look at it is that one has won three of his last six majors and the other is one of the most in-form players on the planet.
Europe: Few – and certainly not me – saw this one coming. Rahm has spent most of the week under the wing of Rory McIlroy while Rose was expected to take out one of the English rookies in the fourballs. Not so. As it is, Rose will have the honour of playing in the opening match for the third successive Ryder Cup. He and Henrik Stenson won at Gleneagles while they lost at Hazeltine as the Americans swept the opening session 4-0.
Meanwhile Rahm is a rookie only in name. Nor will be be the only rookie in the opening match given Finau’s presence.
As for the logic, you presume that Captain Bjorn is counting on Rose’s inherent calmness to keep the combustible Rahm just below boiling point.
One things for sure – it’s a high-calibre pairing with both inside the top 10 of the world rankings.
Mark: It almost feels like Europe will have to get off to a quick start and I’d back them to do it. Europe win 3&1.
Dan: Europe to win 3&2.
Ryder Cup fourballs: Match 2
8.25am (7.25am UK time)
Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson (USA) vs. Rory McIlroy and Thorbjorn Olesen (Europe)
USA: A new pairing for the Americans but, again, it’s not a hugely surprising one. Fowler has a poor W2 L4 H5 record for a player of his skills while Johnson’s is similarly ordinary – and only saved by winning all three of his singles.
Furyk will be keen to find a new home for his World No. 1 – since 2015 he’s been sent out with Spieth, Koepka and Kuchar.
Maybe Fowler will be the perfect foil; similarly laid-back and the fellow Jupiter residents have spent a lot of time together already this week.
“We practised together the last three days,” said Johnson. “We’re good buddies and I think our games match up pretty well, I feel like we both do everything very well.”
Fowler added: “I feel like I’m getting matched up against Rory in a lot of the team matches.”
For the record Rory thrashed him at Gleneagles 5&4.
Europe: Again, not a pairing that had been telegraphed. There are, though, shades of McIlroy’s successful Hazeltine partnership with Thomas Pieters here.
The received wisdom is that rookies should play their first match in fourballs rather than foursomes so it is no surprise that Olesen, as the junior member of the European team, should go out in the morning. What an introduction, though, alongside McIlroy. That is a huge vote of confidence in his fellow Dane from Captain Bjorn.
As for McIlroy, well, we expect him to play five times, albeit quite possibly with a different foursomes partner in the afternoon.
In the meantime, he has Olesen alongside him. Could this be the start of something beautiful?
Mark: This might be ridiculous but I’m a bit anxious over this one due to Olesen’s inexperience. USA win 2&1.
Dan: It has to be a USA win, I’ll say 2&1.
Analysis continues on the next page…