Our verdict on the Ryder Cup pairings: Spectacular match-ups should see Europe take early lead

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Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia shake hands - SHUTTERSTOCK
Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia shake hands - SHUTTERSTOCK

World No 1 Jon Rahm has been given the opportunity to lead from the front, with Tommy Fleetwood and Shane Lowry left out of the opening session of the 43rd Ryder Cup.

European captain Padraig Harrington has selected Rahm and fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia to lead his side's bid to retain the trophy in the first foursomes match at Whistling Straits.

And they have been handed a tough task after US captain Steve Stricker matched them up against three-time major winner Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, who won three of their four matches together in Paris in 2018.

Their only defeat at Le Golf National came against Europe's star pairing of Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari, but with Molinari not making the team this time Fleetwood has to sit out the first morning's action.

Norway's Viktor Hovland is the only European rookie in action on Friday morning as he partners Paul Casey against Dustin Johnson and Open champion Collin Morikawa, with Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick taking on Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger.

The final match sees Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter, who won one of their two foursomes matches in Paris, up against FedEx Cup winner Patrick Cantlay and Olympic champion Xander Schauffele.

Spieth/Thomas vs Rahm/Garcia

A spectacular match to tee off the Ryder Cup. Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas were extremely impressive when teaming up at Paris in 2018, winning three out of their four games. It was curious that Thomas Bjorn did not pair Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia together at Le Golf National as the two countrymen seem irresistible on paper. Garcia has a brilliant record in this format and they can give Europe the start they need.
Verdict: Europe 2&1

Johnson/Morikawa vs Casey/Hovland

The thought of Dustin Johnson’s booming drives in tandem with Collin Morikawa’s peerless iron play is frightening indeed and the European pair are up against it. Viktor Hovland will not be fazed by matching up to Morikawa, who he played many times in college, while Paul Casey is a fine ball-striker and can keep pace with Johnson. This could be a very tight encounter.
Verdict: Match halved

Koepka/Berger vs Westwood/Fitzpatrick

A surprise to see rookie Daniel Berger used on the first morning, although he is solid and the pairing with Brooks Koepka does make sense. At 48, Lee Westwood will become Europe’s oldest-ever player, equalling Sir Nick Faldo’s appearance record with 11, and he should be a good marshall for fellow Englishman Matt Fitzpatrick. This looks another match that could go all the way.
Verdict: Match halved

Schauffele/Cantlay vs Poulter/McIlroy

Almost as tantalising as the first game. Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay are an obvious pairing - they are very close and with the Olympic gold and the FedEx Cup’s $15 million first prize between them they should make a mockery of their debutant tags. But Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy are a proven duo and will fancy their extra experience to come through and help give Europe the early advantage they crave.
Verdict: Europe 2&1

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