McIlroy and McDowell to lead off for Europe
In a bid to give holders Europe a fast start to the 39th Ryder Cup, captain Jose Maria Olazabal will send out Rory McIlroy and fellow Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell first in Friday’s opening foursomes.
World number one McIlroy and McDowell, who clinched one-and-a-half points from a possible two at Celtic Manor two years ago, will face American veteran Jim Furyk and rookie Brandt Snedeker in the top match at Medinah Country Club.
Olazabal also opted for strength and past form in his final combination, pairing Englishmen Ian Poulter and Justin Rose together to take on the potent US duo of Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker.
“We are not hiding anything,” Spaniard Olazabal told reporters about his foursomes strategy. “At the end of the day, you have to make a bunch of birdies out there to win points.
“So just send the best players out there and see if they can perform well, and manage to win those points.”
Good friends Poulter and Rose dovetailed superbly at Valhalla four years ago, where they clinched two-and-a-half points from a possible three, and Olazabal has entrusted them to take on Woods and Stricker in the anchor match.
“They know each other very well and Europe will have to face a huge opponent,” Olazabal said. “They are ready for it.”
Former world number one Woods and ace putter Stricker have gelled successfully in both the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup, compiling a 6-2 record, though they have lost their last two matches together.
Asked why he had decided to keep them together, US captain Davis Love III replied: “They have won a lot of matches, too, in both international competitions. They play very well together.
“I didn’t go back and study Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker’s record before I put them together. They wanted to play together and they have done pretty well together, so I’m going to let them go.”
Woods, who has also played successfully with Furyk in team golf, was delighted to be in the bottom match with Stricker.
“Strick and I are very comfortable together. We’ve had some pretty good success over the years, and we both have been playing well,” he said.
“Our captain said that would be a good fit, and he wanted us out there to anchor. We’ve got a great match up in Rosey and Poults.”
In the second match out, Phil Mickelson and rookie Keegan Bradley will take on Britain’s Luke Donald and Spaniard Sergio Garcia with rookie Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson next out against Britain’s Lee Westwood and Italy’s Francesco Molinari.
Donald and Garcia will seek to maintain a red-hot record at the Ryder Cup, having won four-and-a-half points from a possible five in foursomes matches dating back to the 2004 edition.
“We’ve got a great record together and it should be a great match against two very good players in Phil and Keegan,” said former world number one Donald. “We are looking forward to it and hoping to keep our unbeaten records going.”
Underlining the strength in depth of the US team is the fact that Love has opted to play three of his four rookies in the opening session, while sitting out two major winners in Bubba Watson (Masters) and Webb Simpson (U.S. Open).
“We had a tough decision, and it wasn’t who to send out; it was who to sit down,” said Love. “But these guys we thought made really, really good alternate-shot foursomes teams.
“These guys are not really rookies. Brandt Snedeker has been playing as well as anybody since the (British) Open championship, and he’s hot. I’ve got him with a guy that’s got a lot of experience.”
Snedeker won the PGA Tour’s season-ending Tour Championship by three shots on Sunday, taking home a playoff bonus of $10 million, and will partner Furyk, a veteran of seven Ryder Cups.
Europe have triumphed eight times in the last 13 Ryder Cups and regained the trophy with a nail-biting victory by 14-1/2 points to 13-1/2 two years ago.