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Two defeats in as many Friday outings were sufficient to see Rory McIlroy left out of a Ryder Cup session for the first time in his career. McIlroy, who made his Ryder Cup debut in 2010 and has featured in 26 matches in succession, was the notable absentee as Pádraig Harrington named his European pairings for day two’s foursomes.
McIlroy and Ian Poulter lost 5&3 to Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele in Friday’s foursomes. The Northern Irishman partnered Shane Lowry in the afternoon fourballs but the outcome was similar, this time a 4&3 loss to Tony Finau and Harris English. McIlroy looked out of sorts throughout, with Harrington therefore and unsurprisingly opting to keep him on the sidelines as Europe attempt to rein in a rampant United States team. The hosts lead 6-2 after two sessions.
Harrington defended McIlroy’s value to the Europeans. “He is already a leader,” said the captain. “You saw him out there after a tough day, he was out following those matches and supporting his team. He is very much a leader amongst his peers and I couldn’t have asked more from him during the year, I couldn’t have asked more from him today. Yeah, the golf didn’t go as well as he would have liked, but I’m not second-guessing him for a second in terms of his leadership and what he does for my team.”
Jon Rahm and Sergio García, the only duo to win a match for Europe thus far, will return to take on Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger in foursomes match one. The English duo of Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton will face Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa. Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth will represent the US in match three against Viktor Hovland and Bernd Wiesberger. The final tie sees Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick combine for a second time, with Schauffele and Cantlay in wait. This means Tommy Fleetwood, despite being unbeaten in five appearances over foursomes and fourballs between 2018 and 2021, is like McIlroy left out.
Speaking before his pairings were confirmed, Harrington insisted he was not overly despondent as regards a bruising opening day.
“Clearly not what you wanted, 6-2,” said Harrington. “There’s obviously still 20 points to play for. We’ve only just played for about 25% at this stage. It isn’t a good start but there’s still a lot to play for.
“My team played well today. You know, just a few times, the odd putt didn’t go in and you need a bit of momentum. Coming out tomorrow, obviously we need a big day.”
The US captain Steve Stricker revealed Tiger Woods sent words of encouragement via text message to his team on the eve of the Ryder Cup getting underway. “I sent it out to the team, and that’s between us, really,” said Stricker. “But the overall picture was just wishing the guys good luck and congratulations for making the team and a few personal things from Tiger himself.
“He’s a friend of a lot of these guys and these guys look up to him. I lean on him a lot throughout this whole process. So it was great to hear from him and provide some words of encouragement to these guys.”
Stricker insisted there should be no let up from his players despite such a commanding position. The US had previously never led by better than 5½-2½ after day one since the opposition changed from Great Britain & Ireland to Europe, in the late 1970s. “It’s a great start, we are very happy with the start,” Stricker said. “But my message to the guys is, tomorrow is a new day. You know, let’s just go out tomorrow and try to win that first session again in the morning and pretend today never happened. Let’s keep our foot down and continue to play the golf that we know we can play.”