Davis Love believes his top pairing of Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth are the ideal men to get the United States up and running in front of possibly “the most fired-up crowd in the history of golf”, writes Simon Lewis.
Captains Darren Clarke and Love have ensured a power-packed start to the 41st Ryder Cup after revealing their heavyweight pairings for Friday's opening session at Hazeltine National.
Clarke will give Europe's bid for a fourth victory in a row lift-off in the foursomes, alternate-shot format, at 1:35pm Irish time by sending out Olympic gold medallist Justin Rose and Open champion Henrik Stenson against the United States pairing of Spieth and Reed, who made an impressive debut together at Gleneagles in 2014.
Match two will see FedEx Cup champion Rory McIlroy and rookie Andy Sullivan go up against Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler, followed by Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer against PGA champion Jimmy Walker and Zach Johnson.
The fourth and final match of the opening session pits 10-time Ryder Cupper Lee Westwood and rookie Thomas Pieters, boht captain's picks, against world number two Dustin Johnson and Olympic bronze medallist Matt Kuchar.
Reed and Spieth announced themselves a formidable partnership as a rookie pairing at Gleneagles in 2014, although their two victories against European opposition came in fourballs, not the alternate-shot foursomes format, where they halved a match with Rose and Kaymer.
US captain Love believes the pair have what it takes to deal with a raucous home crowd creating a white-hot atmosphere in the first match of the weekend against Rose and Stenson.
“Every time I looked at this line-up, I just got more and more excited about all four matches. Obviously not knowing who they were going to put out, but guessing a little bit. Again, that first match is going to be exciting.
“It just happened that Patrick Reed's name is at the top of the list, but 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.
“And then you have a guy that can handle that crowd and handle the pressure playing with him; two of their best players obviously. So I think I might watch that match right off the bat.
“Both teams have a lot of captains, so gives me and Darren a lot of freedom to pick and choose who we go watch. I might watch that one a few holes starting off.”
The pairings Love is fielding have a combined foursomes record of eight wins, 15 losses and 10 halved matches but the American skipper said he had every reason to believe his line-up could help turn those statistics on their head.
“Because this team's never played together before. This is a new 12. As Phil said, it's a fresh start. We're not looking at past records. We're looking at tomorrow morning.”
Clarke said all 12 of his players would definitely play at some stage before Sunday's singles, including Masters champion Danny Willett, whose preparations for his Ryder Cup debut have been disrupted by a provocative magazine article written by his brother Peter Willett, criticising American golf fans.
As a reigning major champion Willett might have been expected to play in the opening session with Westwood an obvious partner but Clarke insisted he had not had a change of heart due to the week's events, nor was he concerned about the Englishman's state of mind.
“There's always been a few different plans and different options. And certainly with regard to Danny, he will be playing tomorrow afternoon. I probably shouldn't tell Davis that, but he will be playing tomorrow afternoon, and he will be rested come Sunday for the singles.
“I have a plan what I'm going to try and execute this week, and you know, Danny is fine. Danny is ready to go. He wants to play. 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. There is no individual in our 12. It's about the team.”
The pairings announcement came at the end of an opening ceremony that began with the introduction of Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin, whose deciding match in the 1969 Ryder Cup was ended by Nicklaus conceding the Englishman's two-foot putt to halve not just their contest but the overall match.
The veterans also dedicated this weekend's matches to the late Arnold Palmer, “The King”, who died at the age of 87 last Sunday. There was also a video tribute to the life of the golfing legend followed by a moment's silence before both captains introduced their line-ups to a large crowd enjoying the Minnesota sunshine.
The United States is attempting to win the Ryder Cup for the first time since 2008, while Europe has never won four in a row.
41st Ryder Cup, Friday opening session: foursomes matches (US names first)
1:35pm (Irish time) Jordan Spieth/Patrick Reed v Justin Rose/Henrik Stenson
1:50pm Phil Mickelson/Rickie Fowler v Rory McIlroy/Andy Sullivan
2:05pm Jimmy Walker/Zach Johnson v Sergio Garcia/Martin Kaymer
2:20pm Dustin Johnson/Matt Kuchar v Lee Westwood/Thomas Pieters