Analyzing Ryder Cup first-session matches


MEDINAH, Ill. – The match-ups for Friday's first session of the Ryder Cup have been announced. Golf Channel writers Rex Hoggard and Randall Mell analyze the pairings:

8:20 a.m. (ET): Jim Furyk-Brandt Snedeker (United States) vs. Rory McIlroy-Graeme McDowell (Europe).

This could qualify as the only surprise from the morning foursomes draw. Snedeker, a Ryder Cup rookie and fresh off an emotional victory on Sunday at the Tour Championship, and Furyk were both captain’s picks who will meet the Continent’s top two-ball in McIlroy and McDowell, who went 1-1-1 together at the 2010 matches.

Both captains talked about striking first to either inspire or quiet the Chicagoland masses. Europe’s Jose Maria Olazabal answered with his first line, only time will tell if Davis Love III responded in kind. – Rex Hoggard

8:35 a.m. (ET): Luke Donald-Sergio Garcia (Europe) vs. Phil Mickelson-Keegan Bradley (United States).

The new Mickelson-Bradley pairing will play an important role in trying to get the Americans off to a fast start. They’re going up against Europe’s most formidable tandem. Donald and Garcia have never been beaten when paired together in the Ryder Cup. They are 4-0 together, all those wins coming in this foursomes (alternate-shot) format. Donald has a marvelous short game and terrific putter. Garcia is a masterful ball striker whose putting has significantly improved.

Mickelson and Bradley have become great chums, the veteran Mickelson taking Bradley under his wing in so many practice-round matches. Mickelson did so with this kind of day in mind, with future Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup battles in mind, but Mickelson has a tough task. He has never won a Ryder Cup match when playing against Donald or Garcia. He’s 0-4 in matches that included Garcia, 0-1 against Donald.

Mickelson and Bradley have chemistry going for them, and the course setup should help. If Mickelson isn’t sharp with his driver, this generous rough will help Bradley recover. Donald and Garcia also have terrific chemistry and a proven record together. – Randall Mell

8:50 a.m. (ET): Jason Dufner-Zach Johnson (United States) vs. Lee Westwood-Francesco Molinari (Europe).

Although low-key, the American twosome may be the U.S. side’s best foursome combo. They have similar games and demeanors but they will have their hands full in the day’s third match.

Westwood has a 7-2-4 foursomes record and Molinari may be the European side’s most underrated player. – Rex Hoggard

9:05 a.m. (ET): Ian Poulter-Justin Rose (Europe) vs. Tiger Woods-Steve Stricker (United States).

This could be the best match in the morning foursomes. Poulter and Rose are 2-1 overall when playing together in the Ryder Cup with both of their victories coming in foursomes. Stricker and Woods are 2-1 overall together and 1-1 in foursomes.

Poulter is an especially feisty Ryder Cup player. The event brings out the best in his game, but he has had his most trouble in this event when pitted against Woods. Poulter is 8-3 overall in Ryder Cup play with two of his losses involving Woods. He has never won a Ryder Cup match with Woods on the other side of the pairing.

Rose is in good form, ranking first in GIR on the PGA Tour, 20th in total driving and seventh in scoring. His putter can run hot and cold. Poulter is a terrific scrambler, ranking second on the PGA Tour in that stat. Still, if Woods and Stricker are making putts, nobody may be able to beat them. They’re two of the best putters in the game. – Randall Mell