Rory McIlroy partners Ian Poulter in opening session as USA leave out Bryson DeChambeau

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Rory McIlroy partners Ian Poulter in opening session as USA leave out Bryson DeChambeau - REUTERS
Rory McIlroy partners Ian Poulter in opening session as USA leave out Bryson DeChambeau - REUTERS

The “Miracle of Medinah” duo are back. Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter will once again resume the partnership that triggered the remarkable fightback in Chicago in 2012 as Europe chase the fast start that many believe is vital to their ambitions of stopping the US from winning their first back-to-back home games in 38 years.

Poulter and McIlroy go out in the anchor match of the foursomes in a mouthwatering clash against two first-timers in Xander Schauffele, the Olympic champion, and Patrick Cantlay, the world No 4 who scooped the $15m FedEx Cup jackpot earlier this month.

The Americans are close friends and Steve Stricker, the US captain, will see so much possibility in the youngsters cracking what Harrington will see as one of his strike pairings here at Whistling Straits.

Poulter and McIlroy have played four times together before, with only one defeat. Their most famous partnership was actually their first, when Poulter birdied the last five holes in the Saturday afternoon fourballs to bring the match back to 10-6 and give Europe a breath of life they turned into a record-breaking win.

“It’s almost been a decade that Poults and I have been playing in this thing,” McIlroy said. “We’ve put points on the board for Europe which is really important but we've also had a lot of fun doing it. So we are going to go out there this week and enjoy ourselves and play our absolute hearts out.

“Our opponents are rookies, but they are not rookies if you know what I mean. Patrick has had a hell of a year and Xander is a great player. Probably doesn't quite compare to what a Ryder Cup is, so they will feel a little different on the first tee.”

If anything, the first encounter is even more tantalising as Harrington entrusts the all-Spanish pairing of Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia to take on Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth in a match that, at 7.05am local time, will electrify the grandstand surrounding the first tee that holds more than 3,000.

“They're putting their best out first, we're putting our best out,” Harrington said. “JT and Jordan have a very successful record and they'll want to continue that. We know they're a good pairing, but we've put a good pairing against them.”

Despite prevailing in four of the six Ryder Cups held since the 2006 showdown, Europe have not won an opening session since the K Club and so much could rest on the initial tussle. Thomas and Spieth have been friends since childhood and gelled instantly in Paris three years ago. Their only defeat at Le Golf National came against Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari, AKA “Moliwood”, who won all four of their games in France.

Paul Casey and rookie Viktor Hovland go out second against world No 2 Dustin Johnson and two-time major winner Collin Morikawa, who is also a debutant. Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick take on Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger in the third match. Stricker is plainly pinning his faith in inexperience. Four of his six rookies are blooded straight away.

With Molinari failing to qualify, Fleetwood is benched until the afternoon fourballs with Harrington vowing to play each of his 12 pros on this first day. Bryson DeChambeau also sits out the foursomes and while that will shock some, his outrageous length - and yes his erraticism - is more suited to the betterball format.

The pairings were announced in a traditionally OTT ceremony that featured both captains making speeches. Stricker cried when he thanked his wife and daughters. "I had a couple beers to try and get me through that. I just couldn't do it," the Wisconsite said. The pressure is clearly on Stricker in his home state as the US try to turn around a torrid run that has seen them lose seven of the last nine stagings.

Opening ceremony and pairing announcement: as it happened

10:06 PM

To recap...tomorrow morning's foursomes pairings

1305 BST Jon Rahm/Sergio Garcia (EUR) vs Justin Thomas/Jordan Spieth (USA)
1321 BST Paul Casey/Viktor Hovland (EUR) vs Dustin Johnson/Collin Morikawa (USA)
1337 BST Lee Westwood/Matt Fitzpatrick (EUR) vs Brooks Koepka/Daniel Berger (USA)
1353 BST Rory McIlroy/Ian Poulter (EUR) vs Patrick Cantlay/Xander Schauffele (USA)

10:03 PM

Match 4

Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter vs Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele...

That's it.

10:02 PM

Match 3

Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick for Europe against Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger.

10:01 PM

Match 2

Paul Casey and Viktor Hovland for Europe and Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa for the USA.

10:01 PM

Match 1...

It's Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia together for Europe. They play Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth.

09:59 PM

Here we go...

The pairings!

09:56 PM

Stricker gets around to introducing his team

He signs off: "See you tomorrow on the first tee."

Time for the Star Spangled Banner... thankfully they get a vocal group who does not absolutely mangle it as often happens at these sporting events. Good work.

09:50 PM

Steve Stricker begins his speech

It's such an honour to be up here representing the PGA of America, the great state of Wisconsin and the United States as Ryder Cup captain. Being from Wisconsin, I'm so proud, honoured and humble to be part of this moment... to be part of this Ryder Cup team.

The message I've shared with our team throughout the week is... we're all in this together. There's certainly a rivalry between our two teams we're in this as competitors and ambassadors for the sport we all love.

Team USA captain Steve Stricker speaks during the opening ceremony for the Ryder Cup at the Whistling Straits Golf Course Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021, in Sheboygan - AP
Team USA captain Steve Stricker speaks during the opening ceremony for the Ryder Cup at the Whistling Straits Golf Course Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021, in Sheboygan - AP

He goes on and thanks various people in his life. He thanks his wife and then chokes up when he thanks his daughters. A proud day for him, no doubt about that.

09:46 PM

The anthem of Europe (Ode to Joy) has been heard

So it's the time of the United States of America to be introduced in traditionally bombastic style. Steve Stricker does not look like a man who will back that bombast up with his words, though. Nothing wrong with that at all.

09:42 PM

Might have to wait a bit longer for the pairings

Steve Stricker hasn't even started his speech yet...

09:41 PM

Harrington eventually finishes his speech

And now begins to introduce the players. They, thankfully, do not have to make speeches. They stand up, wave and then sit down again. Easy, easy, easy.

09:34 PM

The home team

Golf - The 2020 Ryder Cup - Whistling Straits, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, U.S. - September 23, 2021 Team USA during the opening ceremon - REUTERS
Golf - The 2020 Ryder Cup - Whistling Straits, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, U.S. - September 23, 2021 Team USA during the opening ceremon - REUTERS

Fancy. Some ties need a bit of work, though.

09:32 PM

Padraig Harrington makes his speech

There is no question, the Ryder Cup is a special occasion. Has there ever been the prospect of a Ryder Cup quite as special as this one? I admit there were times when I feared this might not happen. Even after the match was rescheduled there was talk of whether there would be any fans at all.

Steve and I are here, our teams are here, our caddies are here but more importantly you are here. You, the fans make this Ryder Cup what it is. Let's make this the best Ryder Cup there ever has been.

09:23 PM

Reminder that the first day's pairings should be confirmed/revealed/announced at 10.45pm BST

That's the most significant thing happening this evening.

09:20 PM

And now it's the turn of the home team

Yeah. They are winning the style game if nothing else. Not sure if they are woollen blazers (or sports jackets...), but a nice contrasting light blue (Oxford?) shirt with darker tie.

 Team USA captain Steve Stricker and Team Europe captain Padraig Harrington shake hands during the opening ceremony for the Ryder Cup at the Whistling Straits Golf Course Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021, in Sheboygan, Wis - AP
Team USA captain Steve Stricker and Team Europe captain Padraig Harrington shake hands during the opening ceremony for the Ryder Cup at the Whistling Straits Golf Course Thursday, Sept. 23, 2021, in Sheboygan, Wis - AP

09:18 PM

Out come the European team

Here they were, a little earlier on...

KOHLER, WISCONSIN - SEPTEMBER 23: (L-R) Shane Lowry of Ireland and team Europe, Lee Westwood of England and team Europe, Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and team Europe, Matthew Fitzpatrick of England and team Europe, Bernd Wiesberger of Austria and team Europe, Ian Poulter of England and team Europe, captain Padraig Harrington of Ireland and team Europe, Jon Rahm of Spain and team Europe, Sergio Garcia of Spain and team Europe, Tyrrell Hatton of England and team Europe, Paul Casey of England and team Europe, Viktor Hovland of Norway and team Europe and Tommy Fleetwood of England and team Europe pose for a photo prior to the opening ceremony for the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits on September 23, 2021 in Kohler, Wisconsin - Getty Images
KOHLER, WISCONSIN - SEPTEMBER 23: (L-R) Shane Lowry of Ireland and team Europe, Lee Westwood of England and team Europe, Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and team Europe, Matthew Fitzpatrick of England and team Europe, Bernd Wiesberger of Austria and team Europe, Ian Poulter of England and team Europe, captain Padraig Harrington of Ireland and team Europe, Jon Rahm of Spain and team Europe, Sergio Garcia of Spain and team Europe, Tyrrell Hatton of England and team Europe, Paul Casey of England and team Europe, Viktor Hovland of Norway and team Europe and Tommy Fleetwood of England and team Europe pose for a photo prior to the opening ceremony for the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits on September 23, 2021 in Kohler, Wisconsin - Getty Images

09:14 PM

Wisconsin native Steve Stricker...

This is my back yard. This is home. Those are my people out there. This is Wisconsin's finest right here. We couldn't be happier or prouder.

09:14 PM

Padraig Harrington speaks

We've been waiting for years... it was so much in doubt, even at one stage we were wondering if there would be spectators. We're raring to go.

Golf - The 2020 Ryder Cup - Whistling Straits, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, U.S. - September 23, 2021 Team Europe captain Padraig Harrington, host Rob Riggle with the Ryder Cup trophy during the opening ceremony - REUTERS/BRIAN SNYDER 
Golf - The 2020 Ryder Cup - Whistling Straits, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, U.S. - September 23, 2021 Team Europe captain Padraig Harrington, host Rob Riggle with the Ryder Cup trophy during the opening ceremony - REUTERS/BRIAN SNYDER

09:13 PM

Out come the European captain and his vice-captains

They get a smattering of applause...

Steve Stricker and his gang come out to something a little more, if not entirely... rapturous. Have to say I prefer the outfits of the Americans.

09:09 PM

What, exactly, is a Ryder Cup opening ceremony?

We're about five minutes in and I am still not sure. A lot of hot air and bluster and not a lot of substance. A quick roll call from the presenters finds out that most of the fans are there to support USA (USA! USA! USA!).

Out come the wives and partners of the players and captains. How very quaint...

09:04 PM

The opening ceremony has started

Rob Riggle is on MC duties. Weather looks a bit grey.

08:49 PM

How Europe can upset the odds and win the Ryder Cup on American soil

USA are odds-on favourites to keep the Ryder Cup on their side of the Atlantic, but the winds could be blowing in Europe's favour. James Corrigan takes a look at how the visitors can retain the Cup.

08:37 PM

Europe's players share their thoughts ahead of the first day's play

08:13 PM

How will it go? Ryder Cup predictions: Our experts' verdicts - from which team will win to most likely flashpoint

These events can often be tempestuous and feisty affairs. Even when they are good-natured, the crowd can whip things up. That's no bad thing. But how do our team of experts think this one will play out? The USA team is packed with star talent, but lacks the experience of the European's line-up. Does that matter? Read the full piece here.

07:43 PM

Want to know more about the challenges of Whistling Straits?

Severe drop-offs, dunes, a near 100-yard bunker and Lake Michigan await the players at the 43rd Ryder Cup. Read our comprehensive hole-by-hole guide to the Wisconsin course here.

A general view of the first hole during practice rounds prior to the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits on September 23, 2021 in Kohler, Wisconsin - Warren Little/Getty Images
A general view of the first hole during practice rounds prior to the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits on September 23, 2021 in Kohler, Wisconsin - Warren Little/Getty Images

05:29 PM

Good evening

It's the eve of the 2021 Ryder Cup and that means two things. One, the opening ceremony. Two, the pairings for tomorrow's foursomes and fourballs will be announced by both captains. Now, you may find one of those things more exciting and interesting than the other but we have it all covered. The opening ceremony begins at 9pm BST and at the end of it all, the pairings will be announced.

Meanwhile, Paul Casey is hoping to make the most of another Ryder Cup appearance, this time as an automatic qualifier.

Casey played in Europe's successive nine-point victories in 2004 and 2006 - famously ending one match at the K Club with a hole-in-one - as well as the defeat at Valhalla in 2008.

But he was then overlooked for a wild card in 2010 by captain Colin Montgomerie, despite being ranked seventh in the world at the time, and was not even a member of the European Tour for a number of years before rejoining in 2017 and getting a wild card the following year in Paris.

"There was a time pre-Paris that I thought I might never play another Ryder Cup, having missed a couple, more than a couple," said Casey.

European team member Paul Casey of England chips on the first hole during a practice round for the pandemic-delayed 2020 Ryder Cup golf tournament at the Whistling Straits golf course in Kohler, Wisconsin, USA, 23  - Shutterstock 
European team member Paul Casey of England chips on the first hole during a practice round for the pandemic-delayed 2020 Ryder Cup golf tournament at the Whistling Straits golf course in Kohler, Wisconsin, USA, 23 - Shutterstock

"I was quite emotional in Paris because of that gap. The form I had been through and to be part of that great team in Paris has been one of the most special moments of my career.

"The fact I was a pick made me sort of nervous coming down the last few weeks. This one I felt much more comfortable.

"And now I'm even looking at Westy [Lee Westwood] going, 'How many more can I play? I think Westy is 48. I'm 44 thinking can I squeeze a couple more out?

"It's amazing how my view on it has changed going from maybe I'm done, to what does the future hold?"

A United States team featuring eight of the world's top 10 are odds-on favourites to regain the trophy after their comprehensive defeat in Paris, but Casey is quietly confident the visitors can pull off another upset victory.

"I think firstly the dynamic is brilliant," the 44-year-old added. "I don't like to compare teams and say this team is better than another team I've played on. But this team as a unified team is so strong."

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