Planet Golf — 30 September 2016 by GW staff and news services
Europe starts with veteran tandem

CHASKA, Minn. — Europe’s powerful duo of Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson will face an early showdown against the young exuberant American pair of Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed when the Ryder Cup begins Friday morning with four Foursomes matches at Hazeltine.

It’s hardly a surprise.

“We knew that was coming,” Spieth said. “We knew that’s who they were throwing out. … We have got a huge match ahead of us.”

Rose (pictured) is the Olympic champ; Stenson is the Open champ. Two years ago at Gleneagles, they won all three of their matches to lead Europe to its third consecutive Ryder Cup win.

“They were always going to be my choice for leading Europe off in this match,” captain Darren Clarke said. “That was never, never in doubt.”

Spieth and Reed burst onto the scene that week in Gleneagles, winning their first two matches before halving their Foursomes match against Rose and Martin Kaymer. During his singles match, Reed was bold enough to shush the gallery, showing the kind of moxie that American captain Davis Love III wants to keep seeing Friday morning in front of the home crowd.

“Our most fired-up guy is going to be in front of the most fired-up crowd maybe in the history of golf,” Love said. “So that’s a good start. And then you have a guy that can handle that crowd and handle the pressure playing with him (and against) two of their best players obviously.

“So I think I might watch that match right off the bat.”

Reed called it a “battle of four great golfers. It’s going to be so much fun and hopefully we can give them a good show and get the U.S. off to a right start.”

Rose plans to hit the opening tee shot.

“It’s clearly nerve-wracking and it’s not a moment you can really prepare for,” Rose said. “Just expect to be nervous, get it airborne and forward — and then Henrik and I will build a great round from there.”

Rose will tee off at 8:35 a.m. ET (7:35 a.m. local). The three other matches are:

Rory McIlroy and Andy Sullivan, Europe vs. Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler, USA, 8:50 a.m. ET

Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer, Europe vs. Jimmy Walker and Zach Johnson, USA, 9:05 a.m. ET

Thomas Pieters and Lee Westwood, Europe vs. Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar, USA, 9:20 a.m. ET

That means rookies Rafa Cabrera Bello, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Danny Willett and Chris Wood are sitting out the morning session for Europe, while J.B. Holmes, Brooks Koepka, Ryan Moore and Brandt Snedeker are sidelined for the Americans.

Love said his pairings were “very easy” to make. Three of his four pairings have previous Ryder Cup experience together. Walker and Zach Johnson are the only new pairing.

“I think the biggest thing for us is this feeling of preparation and trust — and those pairings trust each other in a pressure situation,” Love said. “… We love this lineup and then we’ll throw another lineup out there in the afternoon (Four-balls) that we’re just as proud of.”

Mickelson and Fowler have played one Ryder Cup match together, in 2010 at Celtic Manor when they lost in Four-balls to Kaymer and Ian Poulter. But they’ve shared many practice rounds together.

“It seems that we tend to bring out each other’s best more times than not,” Fowler said. “That’s what you want in match play, especially in alternate shot.”

Clarke was asked why Willett, the Masters champ and most decorated of his six rookies, was sitting out the first session. He denied that it had anything to do with Willett’s brother making incendiary remarks about the American fans, for which Willett felt compelled to apologize.

“With regard to Danny, he will be playing tomorrow afternoon,” Clarke said. “… I have a plan what I’m going to try and execute this week. Danny is fine. Danny is ready to go. He wants to play.”

The only two Ryder Cup rookies who are playing Friday morning are Europe’s Sullivan and Pieters. Clarke said pairing Pieters with the experienced Westwood, who’s making his 10th Ryder Cup appearance, seemed natural.

Meanwhile, McIlroy and Sullivan have previously expressed a desire to play together. McIlroy won the FedExCup just last Sunday, winning two tournaments — including the TOUR Championship — in the process.

“With the form that Rory is currently in, and Sully playing very nicely, it would be foolish of me not to give them the opportunity,” Clarke said.

The eight Americans playing Friday morning have a combined Ryder Cup Foursomes record of 8-15-10. Meanwhile, the six Europeans with prior Ryder Cup experience are a combined 27-10-11.

The Foursomes sessions have been extremely productive for the Europeans in recent Ryder Cups. In the last six Cups, Europe is 26-10-12 in Foursomes. Two years ago at Gleneagles, Europe did not lose a single Foursomes match, going 6-0-2.

But in 2012 when Love III was the U.S. captain for the first time, his team held its own, splitting the eight points in Foursomes play.

Love decided to go with Foursomes in the morning session — just as he did four years ago at Medinah — for logistics reasons. “It just plays so much faster, gets us done before lunch.”

Although recent results are lopsided in Europe’s favor, Love isn’t worried about the trend continuing Friday morning.

“We’re just looking to the future right now and not looking at the past,” he said. “A lot of the stats that I get, I just throw them out because we’ve kind of got a good, fresh attitude right now.”

On the flip side, Clarke said Europe’s success in the format is “having complete and utter belief in your partner. … I think that European bond is a very strong one, and it seems to work whenever the guys all pull together and they have that bond, and that makes — in my opinion, that makes a strong foursome pairing.”

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