Big guns will get Ryder Cup action under way

Big guns will get Ryder Cup action under way

Ryder Cup captains Darren Clarke and Davis Love have backed their two top partnerships to get their sides off to a good start at Hazeltine National on Friday.

Europe tee off the foursomes with the Olympic gold and silver medallists in England's Justin Rose and Sweden's Henrik Stenson, who won three out of three together at Gleneagles two years ago.

Unsurprisingly they will be up against two-time major winner Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, who were America's best combination in Scotland with two wins and a half in three matches, in the first match off at 7.35am local time (1.35pm BST).

Big guns will get Ryder Cup action under way

However, Clarke - despite protestations to the contrary - was forced into a late change when he paired rookie Thomas Pieters with veteran Lee Westwood in the fourth match, when the evidence all week had pointed to Danny Willett going out with his fellow Englishman.

Willett was caught up in a storm following a column written by schoolteacher brother Peter which described American fans as a "braying mob of imbeciles" - among other derogatory things - and his form appeared to suffer.

In his final practice round on Thursday the Masters champion hit one spectator on the head at the second hole and produced a number of other wayward shots which prompted several on-course discussions between Clarke and his vice-captains.

The upshot appeared to be a late switch which handed Belgian Pieters his chance to take on the in-form Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar.

"Danny's playing fine. I have no worries about Danny whatsoever, mentally or otherwise," said Clarke, who denied he had had a last-minute change of heart over the Yorkshireman.

"His golf game's good. He's ready to go play. Obviously the incident that has happened has created a bit of a furore but Danny himself is the Masters champion.

"He's like all the guys; he's disappointed he's not playing in the morning, and he understands what I'm trying to do is for the team.

"Danny will play in the afternoon and he may well play four times."

If there was room for debate over that decision there was none over his decision to send out the big guns of Rose and Stenson to face America's main men.

"I could have almost given you the first match whenever we arrived here or before we got here," added the Northern Irishman.

"Justin and Henrik are a very proven, successful Ryder Cup pairing, and both are very strong players.

"We've got the Olympic champion and the Open champion. They were always going to be my choice for leading Europe off in this match. That was never, never in doubt."

World number three Rory McIlroy will play with another rookie Andy Sullivan against Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler, while Europe's third group of Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer face Jimmy Walker and Zach Johnson.

Love is confident Reed and Spieth will rise to the challenge and he hopes to harness the energy of a fervent home crowd.

"Our most fired-up guy is going to be in front of the most fired-up crowd maybe in the history of golf so that's a good start," he said.

"We just felt like that first tee atmosphere just fit him and Jordan to get it kicked off.

"And then you have a guy (Spieth) that can handle that crowd and handle the pressure playing with him."

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