PARIS (Reuters) - Tiger Woods will partner Patrick Reed against Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood in the fourth and final fourballs match when the Ryder Cup gets underway on Friday, a grouping sure to be the number one draw for fans at Le Golf National.
Woods, back in the competition after missing the last two, is in hot form and it looks a formidable partnership with this year’s Masters champion Reed.
The first match of the day sees Justin Rose and Spanish rookie Jon Rahm taking on Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau, another first timer.
Rory McIlroy and Dane Thorbjorn Olesen face world number one Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler, while English duo Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton take on Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas.
The pairings were announced at Thursday’s opening ceremony in bright, late afternoon sunshine at the course just outside Paris as France proudly hosts the event for the first time.
European captain Thomas Bjorn said he had no hesitation in giving four of his five rookies an early taste of the action, with only Swede Alex Noren having to wait his turn. He said he expected the fiery Rahm to thrive in what is sure to be a white-hot atmosphere.
“They have been just itching to go, especially Thorbjorn, Jon and Tyrrell, they are just really desperate to get out on that course,” Bjorn said of his new men.
“It’s not every rookie in the world you put on the first tee in the first match of The Ryder Cup, but this one is pretty special. So we’ll send Jon out tomorrow morning with the best player in the world, arguably, at the moment. That’s a pretty good place to be for a rookie.”
United States captain Jim Furyk pulled something of a surprise in breaking up the Reed/Spieth partnership that had worked so well in the last two Ryder Cups, but said he liked the chemistry between Reed and Woods.
“Tiger has spent so much time with Patrick and Jordan. We looked at our options - we had one very good pairing and I think we came out of it with two very good pairings,” he said.
“As for Tiger’s record, the teams we played on weren’t successful, so none of us as an individual had good records. He’s been in good form of late and since the PGA Championship, he’s been playing amazing golf.”
Both captains indicated that they hoped to blood all 12 players at some time on Friday but said circumstances could change that plan.
Two years ago at Hazeltine the United States swept to a 4-0 lead in the opening morning’s foursomes - where players play alternate shots with the same ball - and though Europe fought back to close the gap, the home side eventually ran out convincing 17-11 winners.
This time Europe have opted to start the day with the fourball format where each man plays his own ball and the lowest scoring player on each side counts in the matchplay competition.
Over 7,000 fans will ring the first tee when play gets underway at 08.10 local time, creating a noise and atmosphere unlike anything seen in any other golf event.
The United States have not won on European soil since 1993 - the year three of their current team were born.
Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Toby Davis, Editing by William Maclean