Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Ryder Cup: How the fourballs line up

Ian Poulter and Katie Poulter attend the 2010 Ryder Cup Dinner at Cardiff Castle, on September 29, 2010 in Cardiff, Wales

Intriguing matches expected as tournament finally gets underway

LEE WESTWOOD and MARTIN KAYMER v PHIL MICKELSON and DUSTIN JOHNSON

Europe's two highest-ranked players — Westwood is third in the world and Kaymer sixth — have been paired together in the opening game. Westwood, winning his seventh cap, has not played competitively since August 6 because of a torn calf. Uncapped Kaymer, only the second German to represent Europe, has won his last two tournaments, including the USPGA.

Mickelson, going out first just as he did two years ago (in Tiger Woods' absence, of course), 2004 (with Woods), 1999 and 1997, equals the American record with his eighth cap.

Johnson, who broke the head of his driver in yesterday's practice, is his 12th partner.

GRAEME McDOWELL and RORY McILROY v STEWART CINK and MATT KUCHAR

Not out first, as most would have predicted, but still together — US Open champion McDowell on the course where he won the Wales Open in June and 21-year-old fellow Ulsterman McIlroy.

They won three out of four together for Great Britain and Ireland last year, all at the top of the order, and now McIlroy becomes the youngest player in the match since 19-year-old Sergio Garcia in 1999. Cink, last year's Open champion, is a wild card pick for the third time in four matches. Kuchar is one of five debutants.

IAN POULTER and ROSS FISHER v STEVE STRICKER and TIGER WOODS

Poulter and the uncapped Fisher currently hold golf's two World Match Play titles and were partners at the World Cup last November.

Two years ago Poulter top-scored with four points out of five, three of them with Justin Rose alongside him.

Stricker becomes the 12th partner for Woods in Ryder Cup history and form a formidable partnership. They won four points of four at the Presidents Cup and are currently ranked first and fourth in the world.

Woods played the first shot of the match on his last appearance four years ago — but hooked it into water. At least there is no lake to find this time.

PADRAIG HARRINGTON and LUKE DONALD v BUBBA WATSON and JEFF OVERTON

Harrington has not won any of his last nine games, but having been given a wild card ahead of Paul Casey and Justin Rose the three-time major winner was always likely to start.

The same goes for Donald after his second place in America last weekend — even though he was omitted from three out of four fourball sessions in his two matches. Big-hitting Watson and Overton, who qualified despite not winning a tournament, are both cup rookies. Watson is the player who lost a play-off to Martin Kaymer at the US PGA Championship.