Justin Rose-Henrik Stenson: A great Ryder Cup pairing, but can they win this week’s Zurich Classic?

The PGA Tour’s only pairs event returns to TPC Louisiana for a fourth renewal and the English-Swedish combo are hoping to ride the wave of their improved form last time out.

Absolute minefield or a welcome break from the norm?

That's the dilemma for punters this week as the PGA Tour returns for its one-off official pairs event - the Zurich Classic of New Orleans at TPC Louisiana.

In one sense, there is something of a Ryder/Presidents Cup vibe about it but, as we'll discuss later, in truth, that comparison is not really valid.

The Ryder Cup, especially, takes place in a fevered atmosphere whereas this event is something of fun week and a novelty.

That said, should we take careful note that 2016 Olympic gold and silver medal winners Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson have returned for a third crack at the title?

They must want to do more than merely discuss the correct methods of polishing previous metal.

Rose flourished last time out at the Masters, leading after round one and remaining in contention all week.

Stenson was nowhere near as good in comparison, but playing four rounds was something of a return to form for him. Every little counts, right?

Ahead of Thursday's action let's remind ourselves of the great Ryder Cup pairings down the years, where Rose and Stenson are placed among them, and discuss their hopes this week.

Severiano Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal

They not only played together more times than any other pairing for either side (15 matches), they also won an incredible 12 points, six more than any other duo has amassed.

The went 6-1-1 in foursomes, 5-1-1 in fourballs, and were unbeaten in the 1989 and 1991 matches.

Those numbers only scratch at the surface of their influence, however.

Ballesteros was instrumental in reviving the fortunes of the Ryder Cup, using resentment at his treatment on the PGA Tour as fuel for the European renaissance.

As many of those slights were imagined as were real, but that didn't matter: he was a great golfer made legendary when flying the European flag and he took Olazabal under his wing.

Highlights of their time together include the time Olazabal rescued Ballesteros at Muirfield Village in 1987 after the older man raced a putt past the hole - Olly holed the return effort with astonishing aplomb.

Then they both drove the 10th green at The Belfry in 1989, outrageously outdoing one another.

They also got into a heated argument with Chip Beck and Paul Azinger at Kiawah Island in 1991.

Brilliant, inspirational, not afraid of controversy - they were unquestionably the finest combo of them all.

Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam

On paper it seemed something of an oddball idea: the tall, socially awkward, English obsessive and the short, pub-loving, fiery Welshman.

But they were also both good enough to reach No. 1 in the world rankigs and they were also both Major Champions.

Together they landed six points from ten matches.

Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth

A great partnership for the Americans, winning five points from seven matches in 2014 and 2016, losing just the once.

They also claimed 3.5 points at the 2017 Presidents Cup and seemed set for a reunion at the 2018 match in Paris.

All it all turned sour ...
All it all turned sour ...

But the partnership ended in acrimony. Spieth played with Justin Thomas in France, Reed with Tiger Woods.

"The issue's obviously with Jordan not wanting to play with me," said Reed. "I don't have any issue with Jordan.

"When it comes right down to it, I don't care if I like the person I'm paired with or if the person likes me as long as it works and it sets up the team for success. He and I know how to make each other better. We know how to get the job done."

Arnold Palmer and Gardner Dickinson

An old school US pairing that was unbeaten between 1967 and 1971.

The played four times in the foursomes - and won all four.

Then they had one outing in the fourballs - and won that, too.

Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose

They've played in eight Ryder Cup matches, winning six and losing just twice, with a split between fourball and foursomes that is equal: 3-1-0 in both.

In 2014 at Gleneagles they won Europe's only point in the morning fourballs, averting a disastrous start as they thumped Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson 5&4.

In the afternoon they defeated Hunter Mahan and Dustin Johnson 2&1 in the foursomes and then added victory over Watson and Matt Kuchar the following morning before Stenson was given the afternoon off.

In 2016 they won only one of three matches before they were reunited in 2018, winning both their foursomes.

Rose and Stenson in this event

They shot 72-66 to miss the cut in 2017 and 65-71-65-73 to finish T19th in 2018.

Curiously, foursomes, which they so excelled at in the last Ryder Cup, was their Achilles heel.

In some ways that trend is of a piece with the way in which individuals have sometimes thrived at the WGC Dell Match Play and also the Ryder Cup, but most often there is very little corresponding form.

The febrile atmosphere of the Ryder Cup does not call on an entirely different set of skills, but it's definitely not the same.

Do they have a chance this week? Stenson was in horrible form until the Masters, missing six straight cuts before claiming T38th at Augusta.

Rose was struggling with injury ahead of the year's first Major and yet contended all week on his way to tied seventh.

They are a best price 35/1 to win with Unibet, but you might be better off backing the in-form Aussie duo of Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman who are 12/1 with Bet365. See the link below for more information on the leading pairings.

READ MORE: The leading combinations at this week's Zurich Classic: Which pairing can conquer the unique format?

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