Europe captain Darren Clarke has opted for experience as he announced the pairings for this morning’s opening foursomes matches which will kickstart his side’s bid for an unprecedented fourth straight Ryder Cup victory.
All six players with Ryder Cup experience will feature, although Clarke’s final pairing provided the biggest surprise as Belgium’s Thomas Pieters will partner Lee Westwood against US Open winner Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar.
There were suggestions that Clarke would create an all-Yorkshire union between either Danny Willet or Matt Fitzpatrick and Westwood, who is playing in his 10th Ryder Cup appearances this week. It was Pieters who received the nod.
The opening foursomes will see Olympic champion Justin Rose and Open Championship winner Henrik Stenson go head-to-head with former world No1 Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed. Rose and Stenson won Europe’s first point at Gleneagles in 2014.
Clarke’s United States counterpart Davis Love III chose five-time Major winner Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler for his second pairing, who will fight it out with FedEx Cup champion Rory McIlroy and Andy Sullivan.
The third European pairing will see Spain’s Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer of Germany take on US PGA winner Jimmy Walker and Zach Johnson, who won last year’s Open Championship.
Westwood, meanwhile, insisted all the pressure at Hazeltine this week is heaped on the shoulders of the United States players after they formed an 11-man task force to review all aspects of their past Ryder Cup failures.
“It’s very flattering to Team Europe that the USA have put this task force together and are trying to replicate what we’ve done,” said Westwood. “It puts added pressure on them. You form a task force and it doesn’t go right this week, where do you go from there?”