Analysis of Friday’s Ryder Cup foursomes

Approaching the Green by Mike F., on Flickr
Photo by  Mike F. 
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The pairings for the morning session of the 2012 Ryder Cup were just announced, and boy, Europe looks like they will have the advantage heading into Friday afternoon. Full matchups with my thoughts are listed below. Note that these are the foursome matches, where players will alternate shots on each hole.
 
MATCH ONE: Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell vs. Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker
 
European team captain Jose Maria Olazabal didn’t waste any time with throwing out the big guns, sending out McIlroy and McDowell, while American leader Davis Love counters with two of his captain’s picks in Furyk and Snedeker. AP writer Doug Ferguson notes that it’s the first time since 1995 that one of Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson wasn’t in the opening pairing. Snedeker is currently leading the PGA Tour this season in Strokes Gained Putting, while Furyk is a respectable 24th in that category. Interesting that Love went with this as a pairing considering how similar the two players are, but both guys are in good form recently, Snedeker especially. With that said, no one is hotter than McIlroy right now, and even though McDowell hasn’t had the kind of year he wanted to, we know how capable he is. The talent gap here just seems to heavily favour Europe, so I’m giving them the opening point.
 
MATCH TWO: Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia vs. Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson
 
As far as overall intrigue, this is the matchup I’m anticipating the most. Both Bradley and Mickelson made it clear early on that they wanted to play together, so they’re going to get their wish. Unfortunately for them, they’re paired against a buzzsaw grouping of Donald and Garcia. As I mentioned yesterday, both Donald and Garcia have phenomenal records in the Ryder Cup, in fact, they are undefeated in foursomes play, going a combined 14-0-1, including a 4-0 mark as teammates. Garcia’s been pretty good since getting cut at the PGA Championship, with a win and a T-3, and while Donald has been struggling a little in recent weeks, he did pick up a typical quite Luke Donald T-3 last week at East Lake. For the U.S. as of late, Mickelson has been better recently, but Bradley hasn’t been on point since winning the Bridgestone and finishing T-3 at the PGA Championship at the beginning of August. Even though he’s a Ryder Cup rookie, I wouldn’t be concerned about Bradley’s nerves, but as we’ve seen in the past, this event has a different type of pressure and atmosphere attached to it. Mickelson’s shoddy record in the Ryder Cup would also have me a little concerned, but the good news for both guys is that they are really comfortable with each other. I’m betting on Europe picking up their second point of the morning, and going up 2-0.
 
MATCH THREE: Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari vs. Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson
 
Definitely the least exciting of the morning pairings, it’s tough to really see a clear advantage for either side here. Many will be talking about how steady the pairing of Dufner and Johnson is, but Westwood and Molinari are two of the more steady on the European squad as well. Westwood has been going through some rough times, firing his coach and caddie in recent weeks, and finishing last at the Tour Championship a few days ago. His 7-2-4 record in foursomes is pretty remarkable, which could come in handy when compared to Molinari’s limited experience in match play events. Interestingly, Molinari’s stats are down across the board with the exception of his Greens in Regulation percentage, yet it hasn’t hurt his overall performance, with seven top-10’s this season. Dufner is one of the most consistent players out there, and Johnson’s accuracy off the tee and lights out putting will make them tough to beat. The wildcard here is Westwood. If he’s playing well, Europe looks very formidable. If he continues his recent form, they could be in some trouble. I’ll give this match a split, with Europe taking a 2.5-0.5 lead.
 
MATCH FOUR: Ian Poulter and Justin Rose vs. Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker
 
The most obvious pairing of the week sees Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker take on Justin Rose and Ian Poulter. Stricker and Rose could really end up being the background noise to Poulter and Woods, especially if either side gets out to a hot start. For all the talk about wanting to see Woods and McIlroy paired up in singles play on Sunday, I’d actually prefer to see Woods and Poulter go at it, as Poulter is one of the few players who will not back down when playing Woods, and in actuality, would probably go on the offensive. There is a little bit of history here, as Stricker and Woods defeated Poulter in 2010 at Celtic Manor when Poulter was paired with Ross Fisher, but Rose is a more dangerous player than Fisher. Much like Garcia, Poulter seems to elevate his game when he’s playing directly against other players, instead of just trying to climb a leaderboard. His 8-3 record at the Ryder Cup is why he was made a captain’s pick, and even though it’s a smaller sample size, Rose’s 3-1 record is a nice thing for Olazabal to look at. With all of that said, Woods and Stricker do have the overall talent edge here, and their styles compliment each other perfectly. Stricker’s consistency of the tee and incredible putting make up for all of Woods’ deficiencies, while Tiger’s length off the tee and iron play still show signs of his dominance from a few years ago. I’m leaning towards another draw here in the fourth match, giving the Europeans a 3-1 lead after the morning session.
 
NOTES

  1. Four players sitting out for Team Europe: Nicolas Colsaerts, Peter Hanson, Martin Kaymer and Paul Lawrie.
  2. Four players sitting out for Team USA: Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson.
  3. The first matchup is expected to get underway at 8:20 AM ET.
  4. The TV broadcast starts at 8:00 AM ET on ESPN in the United States, and TSN in Canada.
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