I am not counting on being able to break down every round of this years’ Ryder Cup since it will take place in the middle of the night, but since we have the opening matches, let’s look at how the early momentum may be established.
We get out of the gate at 11:10 p.m. PDT Thursday night with Four-Ball matches. In this event, each team member plays his own ball and they take the best score on the hole.
Interesting enough none of the eight teams playing in the first matches have any history of playing together.
Here are the four matches, with the starting time on West Coast time.
Tony Finau/Brooks Koepka (USA) vs. Justin Rose/Jon Rahm (Europe) 11:10 p.m.: Great start to the Ryder Cup. Four bombers taking aim at the narrow fairways in hope of avoiding the horrific rough. Smart pairing for US Captain Jim Furyk as he puts the rookie Finau with a guy that has won three majors in the last two years. One point of concern for the American squad is that both have a history of being somewhat inconsistent off the tee. The European squad promises to be fiery and get the crowd going. Great start to the day, but I think the European team has the advantage here. Prediction: Europe wins 3 and 2 to take the 1-0 lead.
Dustin Johnson/Rickie Fowler (USA) vs. Rory McIlroy/Thorbjorn Olesen (Europe) 11:25 p.m.: This should be the beginning of a big run for the United States. Both Johnson and Fowler can be birdie machines and both are boomers off the tee, with Johnson of course one of the longest. Will be interesting to see with the Europeans how things play out. McIlroy paired with a rookie in Olesen can be perceived as a key move in that he needs to be the man this week. Rory messed the bed in the final round of the Tour Championships last week when paired with Tiger and if his issues off the tee continue here, this will be the first match over. One of the best drivers of the ball, the pressure is on McIlroy here to find his tee game. Prediction: USA wins 4 and 3.
Justin Thomas/Jordan Spieth (USA) vs. Paul Casey/Tyrrell Hatton (Europe) 11:40 p.m.: On paper, this figures to be the most one-sided of the opening matches. Spieth and Thomas are close friends and know their partners’ games inside and out, so they will be tremendous sounding boards for each other. Casey and Hatton can both be temperamental, so it will be interesting to see how they handle the emotions of the situation. Like I said, on paper this seems very one-sided, but if anything has been proven over the years, it’s that anything can happen. Prediction: This will be closer than it needs to be, but the USA gets it down 3 and 2.
Tiger Woods/Patrick Reed (USA) vs. Francesco Molinari/Tommy Fleetwood (Europe) 11:55 p.m.: Man, this is an exciting pairing for the United States! Arguably the hottest player on the planet right now that also may be the best player in the history of golf in Woods, with Captain America – Reed – the brash patriot that was booed during opening ceremonies by the European fans. Reed has been known to wear red and black on Sundays’ as a tribute to Tiger, so this should be a fun group, especially if the birdies start rolling. Molinari and Fleetwood may be the most understated pairing of this round. Both are very strong players, better than they are given credit. Fleetwood has played with Tiger a lot recently and until the Tour Championship fared well. Both are unflappable and should not be bothered by the emotion. The only better match would have been Rory and Ian Poulter as the American opponents. Prediction: USA takes it 1-up for the 3-1 lead at the end of the first session