By Tim Gavrich
7:20 am (all times CT): Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell (EUR) vs. Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker (USA)
Since he was first picked, I’ve told anyone who’d listen that Brandt Snedeker is the main bellwether for the U.S. team’s success this weekend. He and fellow gritty shorter hitter Jim Furyk face a very tall order against a team with more chemistry than Marie Curie. They will hit first all day and will have to putt exceptionally well to stay afloat against the Ulstermen. Unfortunately, I have a feeling Furyk may miss a key short putt when it hurts. I’d be thrilled to see this match make it to the 18th tee, outcome-be-damned.
7:35 am: Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia (EUR) vs. Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson (USA)
If anyone can inspire Phil Mickelson to rise above mediocrity in the Ryder Cup, it’s Bradley. But they’re up against to Euros who are a combined 22-8-5 in the Ryder Cup, a frighteningly dominant track record. Nonetheless, Bradley will be pumped up for his first Ryder Cup match and that should reinvigorate Phil. Plus, the New Englander becomes a better putter the more a putt means (cf. Atlanta last year and Riviera and Firestone this).
7:50 am: Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari (EUR) vs. Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson (USA)
Here is another American team that is likely to be hitting first from the fairway throughout the day, but given Dufner’s well-above-average ball striking and Johnson’s putting prowess, the Americans could go on some mini-runs during the match. But if Dufner’s a good ball-striker, Westwood and Molinari are downright surgical from tee to green. Even if they’re not the world’s best putters, they will make some birdies. More than the Americans, probably.
8:05 am: Ian Poulter and Justin Rose (EUR) vs. Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker (USA)
Ian Poulter’s Ryder Cup record is as good as anyone’s, but their American opponents have been a Ryder and Presidents Cup juggernaut since 2009. Poulter will make a putt or two and glare at the American players and fans, but his eyes are likely to recede into their sockets once Tiger and Strick get going.
Were I Captain Love (Davis, not a driver of a tie-dye VW bus from the 60s), I’d be thrilled to head to the afternoon four-ball matches at 2-2 with the European side. Look for His Loveness to unleash the fury of Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson on the European side—perhaps Nicolas Colsaerts and Martin Kaymer, who will also rest in the morning for the Euros.