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Predicting Friday’s Ryder Cup pairings

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With less than 24 hours to go until the 2018 Ryder Cup begins, speculation is rife regarding the pairings for Friday’s opening foursomes and four-ball action. While attempting to nail down the Friday morning pairings is difficult enough, I decided to take the challenge a little further by predicting both Friday’s pairings, and how much action each star is likely to see over the three days at Le Golf National.

Team Europe

Rose/Stenson

This intimidating twosome played together three times at Hazeltine back in 2016, and both men played all five sessions that year. Based on the practice groups, it looks likely Captain Bjorn will opt for this fearsome pairing once more to get things going on Friday morning. While I feel Justin Rose is a lock to feature five times this week, Henrik Stenson will most likely sit for one session, as the Swede has been suffering from a wrist injury for the past few weeks.

McIlroy/Rahm

The firepower and energy of this twosome would be so much fun to watch, and it is something I need in my life. Europe’s pairings are far more difficult to predict and generally more susceptible to change session by session, but I have a feeling Thomas Bjorn may well let the wild bull, Jon Rahm, loose in his Ryder Cup debut alongside Rory McIlroy. As with the opening pairing, I feel McIlroy is odds-on to feature five times this week, while Rahm is more likely to sit for a session. However, that may change were he to bulldoze his way through an opening match.

Poulter/Hatton

It’s one step up from blind guessing at this point on regarding Team Europe’s pairings, but with the experience of Ian ‘The Postman’ Poulter, it’s likely that Bjorn will send Europe’s talisman into action with a Ryder Cup rookie. I can see that man being Tyrrell Hatton, who may need a Ryder Cup veteran to control his emotions in the heat of battle. Poulter featured three times at Gleneagles and four times at Medinah, and I expect him to play four sessions this time around. Hatton will likely feature a maximum of three times all week.

Fleetwood/Molinari

This pairing would be another case of a Ryder Cup debutante going out with an experienced head. I think there is a good possibility of these two playing together, and I have a hunch that Tommy Fleetwood will be a star at this event. I also feel the Englishman will feature more than Molinari this week, who has gone off the boil a little recently.

Garcia/Noren

I’d like to see this pairing, and I think it would be a success. There are concerns that Bjorn’s decision to give Sergio Garcia a wildcard pick will backfire the same way Darren Clarke’s decision to provide Lee Westwood with a wildcard in 2016 did. However, I have more confidence in Garcia than most this week, and playing alongside the man who won at Le Golf National earlier this year may well get the best out of the Spaniard. Noren could well feature four times this week, while Garcia is likely to play one session less.

Casey/Olesen

A little weak on paper perhaps, but that’s not to say that this pairing can’t succeed, especially in foursomes action. The smart money is on both Paul Casey and Thorbjørn Olesen featuring three times this week, but if things go wrong on Friday, Olesen especially, will not be taking an appearance on Saturday for granted.

Team USA

Woods/Reed

All the talk of Woods and DeChambeau has quietened and judging by the practice pairings and whispers; it looks like Patrick Reed will be the man to play alongside Tiger. This pairing would be an explosive way for Captain Furyk to kick things off on Friday morning, and I think he’ll do just that. Rich Beem, speaking on Sky Sports UK, stated that he would be surprised if Woods featured more than three times this week. I would be stunned not to see him play four matches though, as his precision iron play could be pivotal for the U.S. this week. It all depends on how they get out of the gate, but should they get off to a hot start, then Reed could well play all five sessions once again.

Spieth/Thomas

It appears the successful Spieth/Reed pairing is over, with rumors indicating the breakdown was due to some public comments made earlier this year by Patrick Reed. Jordan Spieth’s close friendship with Justin Thomas would make this a comfortable setting for both Spieth and the Ryder Cup debutante Thomas. As with Fleetwood, I’m expecting big things from Thomas this week, and I can see him featuring 4/5 times at Le Golf National. Spieth, who has not been at his best lately, may have to settle for three sessions.

Fowler/Johnson

Another pairing that looks very likely according to reports, and this one has the potential to go either way. The need for precision off the tee may hurt this twosome, with Johnson’s accuracy issue being the main concern. The big-hitting American played four sessions at Hazeltine, and it’s likely he’ll get the same amount of game time at Le Golf National. Fowler will most likely play the same amount, although three may be all he can manage, having just recovered from an oblique injury.

Mickelson/DeChambeau

Playing alongside Mickelson this week may well be a thankless task. The American dropped four strokes to the field off the tee at East Lake, and on a golf course at Le Golf National where precision off the tee will be critical, it’s not hard to envisage him struggling. It looked dead set to be DeChambeau and Woods teeing off together, but a lot has changed, and the youngster now seems to be making his Ryder Cup debut alongside Mickelson. I don’t see Mickelson featuring more than three times this week, while DeChambeau has a greater chance of acquiring more playing time. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Bryson paired up with Tiger at some stage this week.

Watson/Simpson

Bubba goes to Paris. I struggle to see how this ends well. The American’s ball striking has been all over the place lately, losing strokes to the field for his approach play in seven of his last eight events, and last week at East Lake dropping 12.4 strokes to the field tee to green. On paper, this is undoubtedly Team USA’s weakest lineup, and Simpson’s average Ryder Cup record (2-3-1) doesn’t inspire much confidence either. As a big Bubba Watson fan, I’d love to be proved wrong, but I see him picking up no points on Friday and then not being seen again until Sunday. Simpson may squeeze one more session out of the week than Watson.

Koepka/Finau

Finally, the big hitting and unassuming Brooks Koepka looks likely to take Tony Finau under his wing this week. This pairing has plenty of upside to it, and my gut says that both men will perform well at Le Golf National. However, I’d be surprised to see these two play every session together and I believe Koepka, who was superb at Hazeltine, will feature in at least four sessions in Paris.

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Gianni is a freelance writer. He holds a Bachelor of Arts as well as a Diploma in Sports Journalism. He can be contacted at gmagliocco@outlook.com. Follow him on Twitter @giancarlomag

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