Punch shot: Best Day 1 fourball pairing

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Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy will take on Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley. (Getty)

Thursday at the opening ceremony, captains Tom Watson and Paul McGinley announced their pairings for Friday morning's fourball matches. Below, members of the GolfChannel.com team on site in Gleneagles, Scotland, weigh in on which dynamic duo they like best:

By REX HOGGARD

All week European captain Paul McGinley has touted the Continent’s “template,” the secret formula that is passed from Ryder Cup captain to Ryder Cup captain.

On Thursday at Gleneagles, that blueprint provided an inspired change of pace for Europe’s Day 1 fourball lineup when McGinley sent Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia out in the morning’s last match.

While the world No. 1 and No. 3 have been playing phenomenal golf in recent months, they have never been paired together in Ryder Cup play, and prior to this week many considered McIlroy and Graeme McDowell a virtual lock to play together.

But in what may turn out to be the savviest of moves, McGinley sat McDowell for the morning session and may have delivered the most formidable pairing since the late Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal earned the nickname “Spanish Armada.”

McGinley also seemed to guess correctly that Watson would be sending out Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, arguably America’s best pairing after the duo went undefeated two years ago at Medinah, in the morning’s final game.

The Europeans understandably expect a victory from McIlroy and Garcia, and as an added bonus they can deliver a healthy amount of momentum from the anchor match.


By JASON SOBEL

Maybe it says something about the state of parity within golf’s upper echelon today, but I think the best pairing will turn out to be a guy who’s never won a Ryder Cup match and another who’s never even played in one.

Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker.

Call it an educated hunch, but this apparent odd couple – Fowler is flashy and fiery; Walker is cool and calm – is really going to feed off one another over the next two days.

Fowler has a history of playing exceptional golf both in high-pressure situations and on this side of the Atlantic, which should bode well for his chances this week. Walker, meanwhile, is a hypercompetitive player who doesn’t seem the least bit overwhelmed by the situation.

Other pairings have more experience or a higher combined ranking or bigger star power, but Fowler and Walker will be the twosome to win the most points in the four opening sessions.


By RANDALL MELL

If by best pairing, you mean the most combined talent, it’s Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia, hands down.

If you mean the best melding of talent and intangibles, it's Ian Poulter and Stephen Gallacher.

Poulter is Mr. Ryder Cup, the heart and soul of the European team, all fight and gumption even if his form hasn’t been the sharpest this year. Gallacher is the hometown boy, the Scot who will have his fellow countrymen raucously behind him, the local who knows Gleneagles better than anyone, who loves playing in the winds forecast Friday. It’s a smart pairing by European captain Paul McGinley, who gives Gallacher his first Euro start with a veteran who will devour the energy all these Scots will offer up against American rookies Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed.