Ryder Cup match previews: Friday morning Foursomes
September 23, 2021
By Ben Everill & Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
- September 23, 2021
Flyover: Whistling Straits
SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – The talk is done, the practice finished and the game plans are set. The Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits is finally ready to begin.
Will Europe maintain its recent dominance, having won four of the last five Cups? Or can the youthful U.S. squad change its country’s fortunes?
Play begins Friday with four Foursomes matches. The format, otherwise known as alternate shot, has been fruitful for Europe. It last lost a Foursomes session in 2012, when several members of the U.S. Team were still in college. Europe has won five of the last six Foursomes sessions, and tied the other, and outscored the United States, 18.5-5.5, in that span. Europe has won the Friday Foursomes in each of the last three Cups by a margin of 10.5-1.5.
Will we see that trend continue or can the U.S. turn the tide? U.S. Captain Steve Stricker and his European counterpart, Padraig Harrington, have announced their lineups. Let’s take a look at the matches that will begin this year’s Ryder Cup.
7:05 a.m. CT: Jordan Spieth/Justin Thomas (USA) vs. Jon Rahm/Sergio Garcia (Europe)
7:21 a.m. CT: Dustin Johnson/Collin Morikawa (USA) vs. Paul Casey/Viktor Hovland (Europe)
7:37 a.m. CT: Brooks Koepka/Daniel Berger (USA) vs. Lee Westwood/Matt Fitzpatrick (Europe)
7:53 a.m. CT: Patrick Cantlay/Xander Schauffele (USA) vs. Rory McIlroy/Ian Poulter (Europe)
"I feel great about our pairings. Some teams that have played together over the years, whether in Ryder Cups or some Presidents Cups, so we wouldn't put them out there if we didn't feel good about them, let me just put it that way," Stricker said.
"So we are extremely excited about how these guys are playing, and the order of which they are going out.
"It's in their hands now. They are playing great and they are excited to get going. I mean, I can't tell you how excited they are to get going and get that first tee ball in the air tomorrow."
Now let's take a closer look at Friday morning's matches:
Jordan Spieth/Justin Thomas (USA) vs. Sergio Garcia/Jon Rahm (Europe), 8:05 a.m. Eastern
Spieth and Thomas have a strong bond that dates to childhood and they’ll need it against the modern-day edition of the Spanish Armada, which features two of the TOUR’s best ball-strikers. The Thomas-Spieth pairing was one of the few bright spots in Paris three years ago, as the two Americans teamed to go 3-1, including 1-1 in Foursomes. Thomas’ strong iron play – he ranked third in Strokes Gained: Approach last season –pairs well with Spieth’s short-game wizardry. Rahm is the World No. 1, but this will be his Ryder Cup debut in this format (he went 0-2 in Four-balls three years ago). He’s teaming with a player who’s a master at this format. The European team’s steady ball-striking will make them a formidable opponent. Both Spaniards ranked in the top three in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee in 2021. Rahm was eighth in Strokes Gained: Approach, as well, and we all know what Garcia can do with his iron play.
JUSTIN THOMAS: "Very excited to get going. The last couple days, you're ready and excited and amped up and everyone is getting everything tuned in. I've only played one but I know it goes by pretty quickly. Taking it in for all I can and ready to get going tomorrow."
JORDAN SPIETH: "I feel Stricks has instilled a lot of confidence in me and Justin, we weren't sure where he was going to put us until this afternoon and very excited to go out and try to set the pace for rest of the team."
JON RAHM: “It's a big honor (to lead off). It means the captain has faith in me and who I'm partnered with. We are looking to start it the right way. So nothing better than to be paired with my friend. It's a true honor. Spanish legacy is deep in The Ryder Cup and I'm hoping we can start a new tradition. They are both world-class players and we know what they are capable of and they know what we are capable of. It's going to be a good match and it's rightfully the right way to start a Ryder Cup, and we are all excited.”
SERGIO GARCIA: “I'm excited. Jon is not only a good friend but an amazing player and we all know what he can do and what he's done. It's going to be nervy on the first tee but that's what The Ryder Cup is all about. I've been there before, and I'm very, very excited and I hope that we can play great like I know we can and get a point for Europe. They have two very strong players that have done a lot of great things, and not only in Ryder Cup, but individually. So at the end of the day we have got to go out there and we have got to do what we know we can do, and just give it our best. It's as simple as that.”
Player records: Spieth (7-5-2 overall; 2-1-2 Foursomes); Thomas (4-1-0 overall; 1-1-0 Foursomes); Garcia (22-12-7; 10-4-3 Foursomes); Rahm (1-2-0 overall; 0-0-0 Foursomes)
Dustin Johnson/Collin Morikawa (USA) vs. Paul Casey/Viktor Hovland (Europe), 8:21 a.m. ET
Both teams have gone with a veteran paired with a rookie as they look to jag some all-important early points. Johnson has only been successful in Foursomes once in his Ryder Cup career but is an impressive 6-1-1 in the format in his Presidents Cup appearances. Morikawa, fresh off a two-win season that included the Open Championship, will look to lean on his expert approach game off the back of Johnson’s long ball. Casey has been given the task of taking young gun Hovland under his wing despite having limited Foursomes experience in the Ryder Cup. Just twice has Casey gone out in alternate shot and he holds a 1-1-0 record. Hovland, the former U.S. Amateur champion and first player from Norway to play in the Ryder Cup, is coming off a season featuring six top-five finishes, including a win last fall.
COLLIN MORIKAWA: "I can't wait. I'm so excited. This means everything to everyone and obviously just want to put a point on the board early on and I can't wait. It's going to be very exciting. DJ and I have gotten along really well over the kind of 2 1/2 years of me being a pro. We have spent a lot of time together and so it's a very comfortable pairing and that helps especially in alternate-shot format."
DUSTIN JOHNSON: "We knew we were most likely going to play together, so we had practiced together so we played a lot the last few days. We complement each other very well and I think we'll be a strong team. We just have to go out and play our game and play some good golf if we want to win. We're going to have a tough match."
PAUL CASEY: "This is like the night before Christmas. The Ryder Cup is so special, to be playing the first session, as well is a great honor. Captain Harrington obviously has faith in my abilities, but also to be playing with Viktor, it shows everybody how good this guy is. Rookies tend not to play first sessions, especially something like Foursomes. But I cannot wait to get started with this guy. Their entire squad is very, very impressive. For me it's focusing on our own game, very simple, and the challenge around this golf course, Whistling Straits. They are formidable, there's no question. They have our full respect but hopefully we can play some tremendous golf against them."
VIKTOR HOVLAND: "I was having trouble sleeping last week. It's a bit more real now after we just watched the Opening Ceremony and it's going to be so much fun playing tomorrow. Obviously played a bunch of golf with Collin in college and the last few years, we have played a lot together and he's a great guy and I want the best for him but not necessarily tomorrow. It will be interesting to see what they as a team can come up with but I feel pretty confident in our ability to give them a really good match, it will be fun."
Player records: Johnson (7-9-0 overall; 1-3-0 Foursomes); Morikawa (0-0-0 overall); Casey (4-3-5; 1-1-0 Foursomes); Hovland (0-0-0 overall).
Daniel Berger/Brooks Koepka (USA) vs. Matt Fitzpatrick/Lee Westwood (Europe), 8:37 a.m. Eastern
It’s been a tough fall for Florida State football but Koepka and Berger could give Seminoles fans something to cheer about. This is Berger’s first Ryder Cup but he has experience with Koepka. They teamed once in the 2017 Presidents Cup, but dropped their lone Foursomes match. Still, the combination of Koepka’s driving (seventh in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee last season) and Berger’s iron play (fifth in Strokes Gained: Approach) could be potent. They’ll need it against the wily Westwood, who experienced a career resurgence this season. Fitzpatrick will be seeking redemption after being shut out in his Ryder Cup debut five years ago.
DANIEL BERGER: "Excited. We played in The Presidents Cup together and it's been a long wait to get going on Friday morning but we are excited to tee off. We bring a little different game style. I'm a little bit more methodical and he's a little bit more bomb-and-gauge, but I think when you play the two pairings together, I think we play well off each other. In alternate-shot, it's really about how you mesh with your partner. Together we're a good team."
BROOKS KOEPKA: "I played with Daniel in The Presidents Cup and I love playing with him. I think it will be fun. Hopefully go out and do what we are supposed to do. We've been getting each other going for days. This isn't anything new to us. Lee's played a whole bunch of these. Got a lot of experience. They are going to be tough and they have got good short games. They are not going to make too many mistakes."
MATT FITZPATRICK: "You want to play every game, so to get off to a start and play in the morning on Friday is extra special. Everybody knows how good they are. I'm sure it's going to be a tough match and hopefully one that we can grind out."
LEE WESTWOOD: "It's going to be an exciting match. It feels like it takes a long time for the Friday morning to come around but finally it's here and ready to play tomorrow morning and getting that first session out of the way. Obviously they have two good players, but Foursomes is a difficult game. You've got to try and get into it early and I'm sure we can do that. Try and get up early and just keep the pressure on."
Player records: Berger (0-0-0 overall); Koepka (4-3-1 overall; 1-1-0 Foursomes); Fitzpatrick (0-2-0; 0-1-0 Foursomes); Westwood (20-18-6 overall; 9-5-4 Foursomes)
Patrick Cantlay/Xander Schauffele (USA) vs. Rory McIlroy/Ian Poulter (Europe), 8:53 a.m. ET
The anchor match of the morning session sees U.S. rookies Cantlay and Schauffele come together to take on Europe’s heavyweights. Cantlay is fresh off his FedExCup winning performance while Schauffele is also riding the confidence wave after his gold medal winning effort at the Japan Olympics. It’s not a new pairing though as they combined to go 2-0 in Foursomes at the 2019 Presidents Cup. This leaves McIlroy and Poulter with a big job on their hands. The European duo has 17 sessions of Ryder Cup Foursomes experience compared to the U.S. team’s zero and have a history together, having played four matches. They are 2-1-1 overall and are 1-1-0 from their two Foursomes efforts in 2018. Poulter has only lost twice in Foursomes play.
PATRICK CANTLAY: "Xander and I have played together before, and we are looking forward to a great match tomorrow. Can't wait to get started. It will be fantastic. The Wisconsin fans will be showing up and cheering us on all day. They have been great so far this week and those have just been practice rounds and I'm looking forward to getting after it tomorrow."
XANDER SCHAUFFELE: "I'm excited. Pat and I have played a lot together and we played the Presidents Cup together. Looking forward to playing a strong European Team. You always want to play against the best. Best way to challenge your game. Pat and I are looking forward to putting a point on the board and going from there."
RORY McILROY: "Really excited. It's almost been a decade that Poults and I have been playing in this thing, all the way back to 2012. We've put points on the board for Europe which is really important but we've also had a lot of fun doing it. So we are going to go out there this week and enjoy ourselves and play our absolute hearts out and try to put points on the board for our team. They are rookies, but they are not rookies. They are great players and it's going to be a great match. Poults and I just need to go out there and play our game and if we do that, we'll put some points on the board."
IAN POULTER: "Experience counts a lot. We have played some great golf together through the years and this is going to be another special match. To be here, great course, it's going to be windy. It's going to be a good test, and it's about putting points on the board. We have done that a lot for Team Europe and we're going to do it again."
Player records: Cantlay (0-0-0 overall); Schauffele (0-0-0 overall); McIlroy (11-9-4 overall; 5-4-1 Foursomes); Poulter (14-6-2 overall; 5-2-0 Foursomes)