Original article appears on Pundit Arena.
All the talk of Thursday’s Ryder Cup opening ceremony will be around the fourth match in Friday’s opening session of fourballs, in what should be a crucial point, the match of Europe’s Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy against Team USA’s Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson. The much talked about team of Bradley and Mickelson were a sensation in Medinah two years ago, winning all three of their games together but losing their single matches against McIlroy and Justin Rose respectively.
The McIlroy/Garcia pairing will be looking to be put a stop to their American counterparts. The partnership could be a stroke of genius from captain Paul McGinley, whose thinking is presumably based on the amount of time both have played together on tour. McIlroy and Garcia played with each other in the final rounds of The Open in July and the WGC Bridgestone Invitational in August. The added twist to this contest will be the comments made by Mickelson on Wednesday about the relationship between McIlroy and Graeme McDowell. The Northern Irish man will be looking for his game to do the talking as a way to hit back at the Americans over the comments.
American veterans to sit out morning session
The talk of the American team is the decision by captain Tom Watson to leave out veterans like Matt Kuchar and Jim Furyk in the opening session. His selection seems to stem from his judgement that his team’s rookies get the chance to experience the Ryder Cup and get a sense of the job in hand, then put the likes of Kuchar and Furyk into the mix in the afternoon’s session.
Rookies take centre stage
Match three is another interesting set of pairings. Stephen Gallacher and Ian Poulter against Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed sees one of the most spirited members of the European team, Poulter, playing with three Ryder Cup rookies. However, in the shape of Gallacher he will have a determined home-grown player who will be determined to impressive at a course he knows so well. Don’t be surprised to see the rookie giving the veteran some advice around the course.
The team of Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker will also be intriguing, as they had apparently asked to be paired together. The Butch Harmon students have struck up a friendship on tour and will look to turn that friendship into a formidable force in tomorrow’s match and repay captain Watson’s faith in them. However, they will play the tough pair of Thomas Bjorn and Martin Kaymer. The German will be hoping to carry on from his winning putt in 2012 after a dismal start to that year’s tournament where he only played twice out of the five sessions. He will be in good hands with Bjorn who has appeared in two Ryder Cups, winning both times in 1997 and 2002.
Set the alarm clock
The first match of the 2014 Ryder Cup sees Europe’s Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson face off against Team USA’s Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson. With a tee time set for 7:35am (sunrise at the Centenary Course is set for 7:07am), both pairings will be hoping to be the first to put points on the board for their team.
The team of Watson and Simpson will be looking to build on the rapport they had in Medinah and to add to the two wins they achieved in 2012. Their only defeat as a pairing came at the hands of Rose and Ian Poulter. Rose will hope his partner Stenson can keep up his good form and build on the 3 points he has won over seven games in the Ryder Cup. Rose, whose own record in this competition reads as six points out of a possible nine, will be hoping he can repeat the feat he and Poulter achieved in 2012 and dismantle the team of Watson and Simpson and turn the board blue in the early stages of this, to paraphrase captain McGinley’s words in his opening ceremony speech, premier showpiece in world sport.
Friday Morning Fourballs
Match 1 (Tee Time 7:35am): Justin Rose & Henrik Stenson vs. Bubba Watson & Webb Simpson
Match 2 (Tee Time 7:50am): Thomas Bjorn & Martin Kaymer vs. Rickie Fowler & Jimmy Walker
Match 3 (Tee Time 8:05am): Stephen Gallacher & Ian Poulter vs. Jordan Spieth & Patrick Reed
Match 4 (Tee Time 8:20am): Sergio Garcia & Rory McIlroy vs. Keegan Bradley & Phil Mickelson