— The pairings and matchings have just been announced for the opening session of the Ryder Cup tomorrow in Wales. Here are the four matches selected from a blind draw, in the order that they will start:
Let's take a look at how these matches might play out tomorrow.
At least the Americans kick off the matches with one of their two power duos. Phil Mickelson has been spending months practicing with Dustin Johnson at PGA Tour stops. He is fascinated with his power and made a plea to Corey Pavin to team with him in this Ryder Cup.
Their collective distance will match well against Westwood and the PGA Champion, but will they have chemistry? Mickelson is a deliberate player who likes to work out each shot verbally with caddy Jim Mackay. Johnson is the antithesis of methodical. He finds his ball and, in Palmer-esque fashion, hits it again. Johnson may lack a flow with his partner.
The Europeans send out their two best players in the opening match, too. Lee Westwood is world number two and has a career Ryder Cup fourball record of 6-4-2. He is lethal when paired with the right player, which has historically been Sergio Garcia. Kaymer, though, is the best player on the European Tour this season. With a major to his name and three wins on his home tour, his form is best on the team. Both hit the ball extremely long, which will match well against the American duo.
The first match should be the best of the four. There's a good chance this could be a draw.
Effectively, this match is a battle of Georgia Tech against Northern Ireland. Both Cink and Kuchar made names for themselves as amateurs while attending college in Atlanta. They both have modest power. This season, Kuchar has played his best as a professional and is coming off of a PGA Tour win in New Jersey earlier in the month at the Barclays. Cink has struggled this year, particularly with the putter - a career problem for the man with 1.2 million Twitter followers abandoned for this week. Fortunately, Cink hasn't lost a fourball match in four tries. Only problem is, he's won just one.
The Ulsterduo should be formidable. They have been practicing together for years in anticipation of this moment. The US Open champion had a specific, slow approach to re-acclimate himself with the rigors of touring pro golf, but appears very excited for this week. He is one of few European players who are still tweeting - each one with more glee than the next.
Rory McIlroy has the weight of the world on his shoulders, seeking to prove his 21-year-old confidence is not misplaced. Rumors were swirling around Celtic Manor this morning that he was struggling the flat stick. In this format, where you play your own ball out, the Europeans have to hope that is not the case. Expect him to be the most aggressive player of the four in the match - true to his style - in hopes of setting up short putts for easy wins.
The Europeans should win this match, but if McIlroy cannot find his rumored missing form inside of 40 yards, the Americans have a window with the PGA Tour's most consistent player in 2010 on their side.
Who didn't see this coming? Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods have a track record of working well together that's better than any of the dozen or so guys El Tigre has teamed with in these formats. They went undefeated in the Presidents Cup together last year. While that's not likely this year - the Europeans are way more talented and crafty than the Internationals - this looks like a potential winner for the Americans. There is a big IF to that, though.
Steve Stricker has very little experience in this format, with his first appearance in the Ryder Cup coming last year. Tiger has had a terrible personal year, but has had the last couple of weeks to find his form. It looks, though, that Tiger has little confidence with the flat stick as he has eyed a new Nike putter for the slow European greens this week. Both will have to adjust their typically sharp putting strokes to these soaked putting surfaces in order to keep up with the Europeans.
Poulter and Ross Fisher - both Englishmen - have competing personalities. Poulter is effusive, fast acting, and will push the issue on every hole. Fisher is a complement in that regard. He is very powerful, too, but is more steady of a player that Poulter. When Johnny Miller said Poulter isn't the best ball striker, he was right. Though Poulter is tied for the European Tour lead in greens in regulation (GIR), he is 177th on the PGA Tour this year, where he spends most of his time.
I like the Americans here, though not by much.
This is probably the most interesting of the four morning matches, though it is also the most likely to feature the worst golf. Jeff Overton has done absolutely nothing since losing to Stuart Appleby's 59 at Greenbrier. He has been said to be very anxious about playing in these matches. So a natural match is not the equally excitable Bubba Watson.
When Watson gets on a roll, he can be a one man wrecking crew. The problem for Bubba is that he has difficulty in closing out. For whatever reason, he is overcome with nerves when he has the chance to win. That means he might be overcome with nerves in this Ryder Cup. He will have to settle down and find a groove to be the guy who leads this team of two American rookies to a win.
On the other side of the coin, Luke Donald has been playing excellent golf since learning of his Ryder Cup selection. He is also devastating in these matches at 5-0-1 career. There is no doubt Donald is ready to play. He also finished T3 at the European Tour event here earlier in the year, so he likes the course.
Paddy Harrington may have caused Monty to come under fire for the pick, but he has been reportedly practicing very well this week. Paddy only has to have form for three days, then he can go back to searching for the perfect golf swing again. Right now, it sounds like he has it.
The Americans may well be thumped in this match.
At the end of session one, I'm predicting the US will trail Europe 2.5-1.5