Two of the hottest hands in golf will go head to head in the opening Ryder Cup matches. Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell will represent an all-Ireland team for Europe, facing off against Brandt Snedeker and Jim Furyk at 7:20 this morning at Medinah Country Club.
McIlroy won two FedExCup playoff events and captured the PGA Championship in mid-August. He is the leading money winner on the PGA Tour and ranked No. 1 in the world. He competed in the 2010 Ryder Cup and has an indifferent 1-1-2 overall record. McDowell is 4-2-2 overall, 0-2-2 in pair play.
A Ryder Cup rookie, Snedeker won the Tour Championship last week and captured the Fed-ExCup playoffs. Perhaps as important where the Ryder Cup is concerned, he leads the Tour in putting (.860). And the formidable presence of McIlroy notwithstanding, he is eager to go.
"I'm very, very competitive," said Snedeker. "People don't get that because I'm polite. But I'm going to try to beat their brains in as bad as I can."
Furyk has lots of Cup experience, most of it on the losing side. He is 8-15-4 overall in the matches, 3-5-2 in foursomes.
As expected, Tiger Woods is paired with Steve Stricker to play in the final match (8:05) of the morning. Woods and Furyk will meet Europe's Ian Poulter and Justin Rose. Woods and Stricker are 2-1 in previous Ryder Cups, 4-1 together in President's Cup matches. On the flip side, Poulter and Rose were a bright spot during Europe's losing effort in 2008.
Another no-brainer fell on the European side, as captain Jose Maria Olazabal paired Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia. That tandem is 4-0 in match play as it does battle with Americans Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley.
Mickelson is a veteran with an extensive and unspectacular Ryder Cup log. "Lefty" is 11-17-6 overall and 2-5-4 in foursomes. Also a Ryder Cup rookie, Bradley won the 2011 PGA Championship and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational earlier this season.
The other morning match features Americans Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson against Europe's Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari. Riding the pine for the U.S. will be Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson, Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar. Europe will sit out Martin Kaymer, Nicolas Colsaerts, Paul Lawrie and Peter Hanson.
"I had to talk to four of my guys and somehow come up with a rational explanation of why they weren't going to play," U.S. captain Davis Love III said. "But these guys we thought made really good alternate-shot/foursomes teams.
"Our guys have really pulled together this week. They have said they would do anything I asked of them. And they came through today, too, when we finally had to make the decisions."
PINGPONG ON THE SIDE
Table tennis has become a Ryder Cup staple, at least on the American side. To satisfy the demand, captain Davis Love III had a third ping-pong table set up for his team. "If we have an injury this week, it'll probably be somebody stepping on a pingpong ball," Love said.
The game within the games can make for strange partners. This year, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, often depicted as adversaries in the world of golf, are the pair to beat in ping-pong.
"I will say as partners on the pong table, we are delivering," Mickelson said. "Although we didn't play well together in '04 (Ryder Cup) on the golf course, put us together on that table and we're rocking it."
Kuchar is the most qualified pongsman. He was a highly ranked tennis player in his youth in Florida. Sybil Kuchar, Matt's wife, was on the Georgia Tech tennis team.
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