The teams for the opening session of the 42nd Ryder Cup were revealed on Thursday with a number of surprising partnerships being unveiled, writes WADE PRETORIUS.
Defending champions Team USA were up first on Thursday evening as a packed audience welcomed the two teams to Le Golf National. Following the niceties and VIP speeches, Jim Furyk opted to send Brooks Koepka, who defended his US Open title before winning the PGA Championship, and rookie Tony Finau out first with Thomas Bjorn responding strongly by naming Justin Rose, winner of the FedExCup and one of his five rookie teammates, Jon Rahm, as their foes.
The match is evenly poised with Finau’s ability to produce eagles and birdies matching up well with Koepka’s big-hitting and streaky putting game. Rose is a man in form and has churned out sub-70 rounds and will enjoy guiding Rahm around the course, even though it is his junior colleague who carries the course experience with two good showings at the venue.
World No 1 Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler face Rory McIlory and debutant Thorbjorn Olesen in the second match with all three results very possible. McIlroy, who combined brilliantly with Thomas Pieters two years ago, is expected to be one of the three leaders of the European side with Olesen showing remarkable form to sneak into the final qualifying place.
Their American counterparts both rank well in all scoring facets and will be extremely tough to knock over.
The successful Jordan Spieth-Patrick Reed partnership will not be out on Friday with Spieth being sent out in game three with Justin Thomas and Reed joining Tiger Woods in the final match.
Team Spieth will face English duo Paul Casey and debutant Tyrrell Hatton and will start the contest as heavy favourites.
Facing Woods, now 13th in the world, and Reed, the spiritual leader of the visitors, will be Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood. Much is expected of the European combination with both showing up well this season. The Italian beat Woods to win The Open and was eager to face the now 80-time winner while his English teammate is expected to hold up well under the pressure of the Ryder Cup as he looks to put his Open de France win in 2017 to good use.
Players left out:
Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson and Alex Noren
Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson
Ryder Cup matches (all SA times):
Fourballs (best ball)
8:10 am: Justin Rose/Jon Rahm vs Brooks Koepka/Tony Finau
8:25 am: Rory McIlroy/Thorbjorn Olesen vs Dustin Johnson/Rickie Fowler
8:40 am: Paul Casey/Tyrrell Hatton vs Jordan Spieth/Justin Thomas
8:55 am: Francesco Molinari/Tommy Fleetwood vs Patrick Reed/Tiger Woods
From 1:50 pm: Four foursomes (alternate shot) matches
From 8:10 am: Four fourball matches
From 1:50 pm: Four foursomes matches
From 12:05 pm: 12 singles matches