CHASKA, Minn. — Europe is sending out some heavy metal to start the Ryder Cup — Justin Rose and his Olympic gold with Henrik Stenson and his silver claret jug.
Captain Darren Clarke put his strongest partnership in the opening foursomes match Friday morning at Hazeltine. Rose and Stenson won all three of their matches together at Gleneagles two years ago. They go up against Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed, who were unbeaten in their three matches at Gleneagles, though their half-point came in the alternate-shot format.
“They were always going to be my choice for leading Europe off in this match,” Clarke said. “That was never, never in doubt.”
Rose and Stenson finished 1-2 at the Olympics last month.
Europe, going for its seventh victory in the last eight Ryder Cups, has six rookies on its side. Clarke decided to use only two of them in the opening session. He said Danny Willett would play in fourballs Friday afternoon. Beyond that, he said only that all his rookies would play before Sunday.
Andy Sullivan will be playing with Rory McIlroy, who is coming off a Tour Championship victory and FedEx Cup title. They will go against Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler, who last played together in a fourballs loss at Celtic Manor in 2010.
Mickelson, the strongest voice of this American team in his 11th straight Ryder Cup, wanted to be in the second match.
“It was hard to decide who went where. Phil always has a plan. That’s where he likes,” Love said.
Love said Reed was a shoo-in to be in the opening match.
“Patrick Reed for the last six months, I mean, he’s just been talking so excited. He’s ready to go and fired up,” Love said. “We just felt like that first tee atmosphere just fit him and Jordan to get it kicked off.”
Jimmy Walker and Zach Johnson will be playing together for the first time, going against Sergio Garcia and Martin Kaymer. This also will be the first partnership for Garcia and Kaymer. Garcia played with McIlroy two years ago, but Clarke moved out his four-time major champion with one of his rookies.
Lee Westwood is in the anchor match with Thomas Pieters. It will be the fifth straight Ryder Cup that Westwood has played with a rookie. Most thought it would be with Willett, the unlikely center of attention over the last two days because of a column his brother wrote in Britain disparaging American fans.
“I have no worries about Danny whatsoever, mentally or otherwise,” Clarke said. “His golf game is good. He’s ready to go play. Obviously, the incident that has happened has created a bit of a furor, but Danny himself is the Masters champion. He’s a great golfer and he’s ready to play and do what he needs to do for Europe.”
Westwood and Pieters will go against Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar, who were 2-0 at Medinah in 2012, but in fourballs. Johnson, the best American player this year, did not play foursomes at Medinah and lost his only foursomes match (with Mickelson) at Celtic Manor.
Europe has a 13 1/2-9 1/2 lead in foursomes dating to the last American victory in the Ryder Cup in 2008. None of that matters to Love.
“We’re not looking at past records,” he said. “We’re looking at tomorrow morning.”