MEDINAH, Illinois — United States captain Davis Love III didn't waste any time throwing three Ryder Cup rookies into the deep end on Friday morning. In a move that came as a bit of a surprise, Love put one rookie (Brandt Snedeker, Keegan Bradley and Jason Dufner) in each of the first three groups for Friday morning's foursomes competition. As expected, he also paired Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker together, sending them off last as the morning anchor.
Jose Maria Olazabal went a more conventional route with his selections, pairing fellow countrymen Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell together in the first group, as well as successful Ryder Cuppers Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia. The Lee Westwood-Francesco Molinari pairing looks a little odd, but given Molinari's lack of experience and success in the biennial competition, it makes sense to send him off with a grizzled veteran like Westwood. The English duo of Justin Rose and Ian Poulter will anchor Europe's morning foursomes against Woods and Stricker.
Here's a rundown of Friday's morning foursomes:
Match 1: Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker vs. Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell (8:20 a.m. ET) — Snedeker talked early in the week about how well he was playing and the fact that he was dying to get the Ryder Cup underway. Well, he certainly got his wish. Snedeker and Furyk, both captain's pick, will be tasked with securing a point against one of Europe's most intriguing pairings in Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell. The duo from Northern Ireland went 1-1-1 in 2010.
Who has the edge: It has to be McIlroy and McDowell. Snedeker is putting out of his mind at the moment, but you can't overlook McIlroy's recent run. Plus, the European pairing has been here before. We still don't know how Snedeker will respond to the pressure of his first Ryder Cup math.
Match 2: Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley vs. Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia (8:35 a.m. ET) — On paper, this could be the match to watch in the morning. Mickelson and Bradley wanted to be paired together, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that Love is testing out the new pairing early on to see if it has a future. However, he may want to temper his expectations against one of Europe's most formidable duos in Donald and Garica. They have a combined 4-0 record as a team and have gone 6-0 (Donald) and 8-0-1 (Garcia) in foursomes in their Ryder Cup career.
Who has the edge: It has to be Garcia and Donald. You can't overlook those team stats -- especially when going up against a U.S. team that's never played together in the Ryder Cup. Past experience likely gives Europe another point in the second match.
Match 3: Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner vs. Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari (8:50 a.m. ET) — This could be a ball-striking clinic. Johnson and Dufner aren't long off the tee, but their pinpoint accuracy and strong short games should make for a solid pairing. Westwood has won 16 points over his career and has a salty 7-2-4 record in foursomes, which means even if Molinari struggles, he can rest easy knowing he has a solid partner there to back him up.
Who has the edge: I like the U.S. in this spot. Dufner and Johnson should have no trouble hitting fairways and greens all day long, and you have to believe if they can string together a couple birdies early they'll be able to see off Westwood and Molinari.
Match 4: Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods vs. Justin Rose and Ian Poulter (9:05 a.m. ET) — In Sunday singles you usually send off your best players early to gain some momentum with a couple points. But in the team format it's usually a different story. You want your anchor to be your best group, which is exactly why Davis Love III is sending out Stricker and Woods last. They went 2-1 at Celtic Manor in 2010 and could make some noise at Medinah. Rose missed out on the 2010 Ryder Cup, but he and Poulter went 2-1 in 2008, so they have some history.
Who has the edge: This one is tough to call, but I like Woods and Stricker to grab a crucial point to end the morning session in a match that could go the distance.
Morning prediction: United State 2 - Europe 2
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