Preview: Friday morning foursomes at the Ryder Cup

We’re all set for the first session of the 2021 match at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.

The phoney war is over, it's time for the action to start.

The first tee at Whistling Straits will be rocking at 1pm (British Summer Time) as the first pairings are introduced to the galleries and then we're away.

Will the lack of European fans hurt the visitors chance? Will their experience prove crucial or is that core of the team a little long in the tooth? Will the relative lack of form among their dozen players mean nothing as they bounce into match play mode? Or will it be critical in the singles?

And what of the home team? Can they transfer on-paper superiority into on-course success? Will youth have its three days?

Time for all the conjecture to end and the golf to provide the answers.

13:05 Justin Thomas/Jordan Spieth vs. Sergio Garcia/Jon Rahm

The American childhood friends have been reunited having gone 3-1-0 in Paris - but the one defeat did come in this format and Spieth did say after the announcement: "We weren't sure where Stricks was going to put us until this afternoon and very excited to go out and try to set the pace for rest of the team."

Garcia is a giant in this format (10-4-3) and now has the World No. 1 onside, a combination that was often overlooked as a possibility because of a perceived coolness between the two. Lots of chatter about their friendship in the press conference and Rahm added: "Spanish legacy is deep in The Ryder Cup and I'm hoping we can start a new tradition."

Does that mean much? Well, in the history of Europe's participation in the match Spanish duos have been superb. They've won 22.5 points from 32 matches. The other one nation pairings? England 18 from 32, Scotland 7.5 from 12, Ireland 4.5 from 13, Sweden 1.5 from 3, Italy 0.5 from 2.

The books have priced this 6/5 the pair which reflects what a tough one to call this is. Maybe just sit back and hope it's as good as it looks on paper.

13:21 Dustin Johnson/Collin Morikawa vs. Paul Casey/Viktor Hovland

The best two rookies (in theory) on either side paired with players who have mixed records in the format. Morikawa looks a dream foursomes partner, hitting fairways and greens for fun. Hovland is a little more volatile tee to green but offers more on the putting surface.

Johnson is a slightly comical 4-8-0 on the first two days at the Ryder Cup and has won only one of four foursomes. Casey is playing just his third alternate shot match which hints that other captains have been wary if nothing else.

Morikawa is a little giddy. "I'm so excited," he said. "This means everything to everyone and obviously just want to put a point on the board early on and I can't wait."

Casey had his serious face on. "For me it's focusing on our own game and the challenge around this golf course," he said. "I'm with as fine a player as possible with Viktor, and keep the ball in play and take care of our own stuff, plain and simple. They are formidable, there's no question. They have our full respect but hopefully we can play some tremendous golf against them."

Another knife-edge match in which the books slightly favour the home pairing.

13:37 Brooks Koepka/Daniel Berger vs. Lee Westwood/Matt Fitzpatrick

B&B went to college together and played together on the 2017 Presidents Cup. On the other hand, they lost that outing - in this format - by the margin of 3&1.

However, if there are doubts about them, there are also concerns about the English duo. Wild excitement in the north Nottinghamshire/South Yorkshire region, but Westwood has no top 20 since March and Fitzpatrick went 0-2-0 on debut five years ago.

Koepka was typically terse when asked about the importance of a good start. "Better than getting off to a bad start," he said. Westwood focussed on Cup savvy, saying: "They're obviously two good players, but foursomes is a difficult game. You know, you've got to try and get into it early and I'm sure we can do that. Try and get up early and just keep the pressure on."

Might Koepka be the key? He's won just one match in his format from three tries and said two weeks ago in an interview: "There are times when I'm like, 'I won my match. I did my job, what do you want from me?' I know how to take responsibility for the shots I hit every week. Now, somebody else hit a bad shot and left me in a bad spot, and I know this hole is a loss. That's new, and you have to change the way you think about things."

He's been irked at how this has been spun. Does that nag at him? Or does it fuel the fire? The bookies favour the Americans which looks about right.

13: 53 Patrick Cantlay/Xander Schauffele vs. Rory McIlroy/Ian Poulter

We start the session with a cracker - and end with one, too: the two Californians friends versus an experienced European duo.

Schauffele isn't scared of much and not this match-up. "You always want to play against the best," he said. "Best way to challenge your game. Pat and I are looking forward to putting a point on the board and going from there."

McIlroy looked happy to be reunited with the Postman. "We've put points on the board for Europe which is really important but we've also had a lot of fun doing it," he said. "So we are going to go out there this week and enjoy ourselves and play our absolute hearts out and try to put points on the board for our team."

The Americans won both their foursomes in the 2019 Presidents Cup, McIlroy and Poulter have two wins and a half from four outings. McIlroy likes the course and has been close with Harrington for a year ahead of this, Poulter knows this is probably his last hurrah as a player in the Cup. 

The Americans are the only pairing in the session priced odds-on. Take that on - that's the pick of the first morning session.

First session result

Europe has lost five of the last six first sessions of the match and in the last 10 matches, when foursomes has been the opening format, the US has won two and halved one.

READ MORE: Ryder Cup reality: Get a fast start or pray for a miracle

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