The Ryder Cup finally gets underway in Rome on Friday morning with Europe and the USA doing battle over a session of foursomes with each pair playing alternative shots with the same ball to get the tournament started.
Four matches take place in the session before the fourballs offer up four more matches in the afternoon. Time restrictions will deny us the chance to cover the fourballs but we can delve into the foursomes.
Jon Rahm & Tyrrell Hatton vs Scottie Scheffler & Sam Burns
Match tees off at 06.35 BST
The Ryder Cup gets off to a great start as the world numbers one and three oppose each other with the WGC Match Play champion and the former BMW PGA Championship winner involved too as Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton take on Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns.
The American pair are best friends which I would imagine is the reason why they have been put together because otherwise it is quite incredible that Burns is playing the foursomes because his tee to green statistics is the worst in the field in the PGA Tour season which has just concluded. He did win the WGC Match Play but that quickly turns into a second shot and short game course. The same can’t be said of this place. Scheffler is a ball striking machine but his putting woes have had plenty of coverage this year and if he is put over a crucial 8-10 foot putt Europe will like their chances. I really like Rahm and Hatton as a pairing. They are going to carry plenty of fuel and passion into battle with them but no shortage of quality. Rahm is a relentless driver of the ball with length and accuracy and Hatton is one of the best iron players in the world. Both men can get hot with the putter and with a raucous crowd following them I think the passionate pair can get Europe up and running with a point.
Viktor Hovland & Ludvig Aberg vs Max Homa & Brian Harman
Match tees off at 06.50 BST
The second match out onto the golf course sees three rookies on show and a player who is competing in just his second Ryder Cup as the FedExCup champion Viktor Hovland pairs up with the exciting Ludvig Aberg to take on Max Homa and The Open winner Brian Harman.
You often get a match like this in the early stages of a Ryder Cup where it is guesswork over who will settle the quickest but given that Hovland is arguably the hottest player in the world and at one point it looked like Aberg would go into this tournament as the Omega European Masters and BMW PGA Championship winner it is hard to see beyond Europe in this match, especially if Aberg plays to potential. In saying that, this course has to be played from the fairways and Homa and Harman don’t miss too many of those and we don’t need to worry about Harman being out of his depth given how easily he strolled to victory at Hoylake. The bookmakers have Europe as massive favourites. I think this will be closer than that and could even be a half point each but I’m happy to leave it well alone either way.
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Shane Lowry & Sepp Straka vs Rickie Fowler & Collin Morikawa
Match tees off at 07.05 BST
The third match onto the golf course could be a ball striking clinic as the former winner of The Open, Shane Lowry, partners the John Deere Classic champion Sepp Straka as they go into battle against the 3M Open winner Rickie Fowler and the former USPGA Championship and The Open winner Collin Morikawa.
This is the one European pair where there isn’t a recognised big hitter alongside a good iron player and it will be interesting to see how that pairing goes against a US team who have exactly that profile. Morikawa has the ideal game for this golf course and if Fowler drives the ball well this team could gel very nicely, especially with Morikawa putting well in recent times. I really like Straka on this golf course but Lowry could be anything. He has had an ordinary year and comes in here under a little bit of pressure as a slightly controversial pick when Adrian Meronk might have been the better choice. I’m already on Fowler in a couple of markets and that is enough for me in this one.
Rory McIlroy & Tommy Fleetwood vs Patrick Cantlay & Xander Schauffele
Match tees off at 07.20 BST
We save the best for last in the Friday foursomes as Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood, two men with excellent records in this tournament, take on the marquee USA pairing of Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele who are extremely comfortable as a partnership.
Cantlay and Schauffele have played plenty of golf together. They have played in Ryder Cups, in Presidents Cups and in the Zurich Classic, a tournament they strolled to victory in 2022 and were fourth in their title defence earlier in the year. Better still, they both drive the ball well and hit a lot of greens and when they come together they hole a lot of putts too. They are going to be tough to beat. If there is a pairing who could beat them it is one which includes Rory McIlroy. If he drives the ball well around here then he is going to eat up a lot of this course and with Fleetwood renowned to be solid from tee to green it might just be a masterstroke from Luke Donald to have this duo paired together and out last. This feels like a match to watch and savour rather than have a bet on.
Back J.Rahm & T.Hatton to beat S.Scheffler & S.Burns for a 3/10 stake at 2.00 with BetVictor