The stage is set for the first day of the 2010 Ryder Cup in Wales. Captains Colin Montgomerie and Corey Pavin have announced the pairings for the first four-ball matches on Friday morning. I did a decent job predicting the Captain’s picks a few months ago, and there has been lots of talk about all the possible pairings.
For those of you who are rusty on team golf terminology – A four-ball match is simply best ball. Each player plays his own ball all the way around, and the best score on the hole by an individual of each team counts as the team score. For example, if both players on one team make 4, then 4 is their team score. If the other team’s players make a 3 and a 5 on the same hole, their best ball is a 3, and they win the hole.
So without further ado, here are the pairings that were just announced by the captains, and some details and my thoughts on some of the pairings. All Times are BMT (GMT +1; EDT -5)
Match 1 (7:45am) – Phil Mickelson & Dustin Johnson (USA) vs. Lee Westwood & Martin Kaymer (EUR)
Phil and Dustin are good friends and frequently play practice rounds together on the PGA Tour. They both have the ability to make plenty of birdies, which should serve them well in a four-ball. Westwood is coming off an injury to his calf muscle, which made it very painful to push off his right side. Kaymer is the 2010 PGA Championship winner and is on good form.
Match 2 (8:00am) – Matt Kuchar & Stewart Cink (USA) vs. Graeme McDowell & Rory McIlroy (EUR)
Matt Kuchar is hot, having won a few weeks ago and contending for the FedEx Cup all the way to the end. He has enjoyed the best year of his career in 2010. Fellow Georgia Tech alum and Atlanta resident Stewart Cink is a major champion and a steady player who always putts well. The two are good friends and should match up well. McDowell won the 2010 US Open and also won an event on the European Tour at Celtic Manor’s Twenty Ten course where the Ryder Cup matches are being held. It’s no surprise that he teams up with fellow Irishman Rory McIlroy, one of the hottest young players in the world.
Match 3 (8:15am) – Steve Stricker & Tiger Woods (USA) vs. Ian Poulter & Ross Fisher (EUR)
Team USA captain Corey Pavin wisely kept the undefeated President’s Cup team of Stricker & Woods together. They are sure to be tough to beat. If any team can do it, it is the solid pairing of Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher. Poulter won the 2010 WGC Matchplay Championship and is no stranger to match play. His friend and countryman Ross Fisher is not well known in the USA, but he is a solid player and multiple time winner on the European Tour. They should be a strong team.
Match 4 (8:30am) – Bubba Watson & Jeff Overton (USA) vs. Luke Donald & Padraig Harrington (EUR)
Perhaps the surprise pairing so far, Ryder Cup rookie Bubba Watson teams up with another rookie in Jeff Overton. I previously predicted Overton would be a liability, but I hope to be proven wrong by Captain Pavin. The tall rough on the Twenty Ten course may force the driver out of Watson’s hands, negating his advantage off the tee, but Watson is also playing this week with a heavy heart as his father has terminal cancer and has been given 3 months to live. Overton can also make birdies on bunches. Donald and Harrington have solid games, and Donald is in especially good form, contending last week for the Tour Championship and having a great season. Harrington was a controversial captain’s pick, taken over Justin Rose and Paul Casey – both of whom had a much better year than Padraig.
Players Left Out of the Morning Matches:
USA: Hunter Mahan, Jim Furyk, Rickie Fowler & Zack Johnson
Given the recent win by Jim Furyk and the steady ball striking and streaky putter of Hunter Mahan, I’m a bit surprised those two were left on the bench in the morning. Especially on foreign soil, it’s very important to get off to a good start, and if I was running things I would do my best to get 4 points right off the bat. I would have exchanged Fowler for Overton, given that Watson and Fowler are good buddies anyway. You will see these two paired together however.
EUR: Peter Hanson, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Eduardo and Francisco Molinari
No big surprises here, although the Molinari brothers will be the sure thing pick in the foursomes tomorrow afternoon. I wonder if Monty will bench Hanson all day, or try to get every player some game time.
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