Well you can rip up the record books, the 42nd Ryder Cup matches will get underway at Le Golf National this morning with a completely new roster of partnerships.
With no form guide or precedent, captains Thomas Bjorn and Jim Furyk have caught the pundits napping by unveiling line-ups for today’s opening fourballs session that feature eight fresh pairings across the quartet of matches and will leave a host of major champions on the sidelines until at least the afternoon foursomes.
For Europe, that means Bjorn will deploy four of his five rookies in the opening better-ball format, a less formidable introduction for Jon Rahm, Thorbjorn Olesen, Tyrrell Hatton, and Tommy Fleetwood to get their Ryder Cup careers up and running, each of the quartet having been paired with an experienced playing partner in what looks an exciting home line-up.
Furyk, too, will blood his two rookies, captain’s pick Tony Finau and world number four Justin Thomas, at the earlier opportunity.
It should make for an intriguing and potentially thrilling first morning on this tight, challenging Albatross Course in the south-western suburbs of Paris.
The morning four balls should certainly start with a bang as double 2018 major winner Brooks Koepka partners the equally big-hitting Finau ag ainst fellow bomber Rahm and the 10 million dollar man Justin Rose.
Both pairings represent statements of intent by the captains, even if driver will not be the weapon of choice on most of the holes around Le Golf National, where tight fairways are guarded by penal rough and the presence of water on 10 of the holes of this linksy man-made inland course near Versailles.
In Rose, Europe may hold the trump card in Match 1.
Aside from his hitting the PGA Tour jackpot by finishing top of the FedEx Cup rankings last weekend, the Englishman is a veteran accustomed to leading off the European charge and will represent a rock-steady anchor for the more volatile Spanish superstar in the making.
The pairing of Olesen with Rory McIlroy against American pals Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler is an intriguing one. Denmark’s Olesen is the lowest ranked of the 24 golfers here this weekend at number 45 in the world and can be as wayward off the tee as the more experienced Irishman was last Sunday at the Tour Championship.
Both the Europeans, though are capable of the excellent ball-striking required for success around here and the capacity to churn out birdies while in Olesen the hope compatriot Bjorn will be holding is that the 28-year-old rookie can be the one to stand out as the latest newcomer to look perfectly at ease in a Ryder Cup setting.
McIlroy has been here before with debutant partners and two years ago failed to gel with opening foursomes partner Andy Sullivan before forging an excellent partnership with Thomas Pieters that reaped three points from three.
A fourballs setting gives the Irishman every opportunity of getting off to a healthy start with his inexperienced teammate.
The comfort levels that run through the American card extend into Match 3 where childhood pals and fellow major champions Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas link up in the latter’s first Ryder Cup experience against an all-English partnership of veteran captain’s pick Paul Casey alongside Hatton.
The flip side of pairing the Texan buddies together is that it breaks up Spieth’s successful partnership with Patrick Reed.
Reed, now the reigning Masters champion, will take his Captain America act to a new pairing with a certain Tiger Woods, who’s new double act with a 13th different Ryder Cup partner will be a fascinating dynamic to watch in the final match of the morning as they take on Open champion Francesco Molinari and Fleetwood, both of whose games and records around Le Golf National appear tailormade for this set-up.
As for the eight players who will sit out the opening session, their omissions seem not be based on a lack of form or experience but appear to be calculations based on a wider strategy from each captain to put out all 12 of their players on day one.
It is shaping up to be a fascinating day’s golf.