GLENEAGLES Scotland (Reuters) - American captain Tom Watson has rolled the dice for Friday’s opening salvos at the Ryder Cup by teaming rookies Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed together and throwing Jimmy Walker into the fray for the morning fourballs.
European captain Paul McGinley gave Scottish rookie Stephen Gallacher an early taste of the atmosphere by putting him out with cheerleader-in-chief Ian Poulter - against Spieth and Reed, and said fellow debutantes Jamie Donaldson and Victor Dubuisson would play in the afternoon foursomes.
McGinley also sprung a surprise by pairing world number one Rory McIlroy with Sergio Garcia in the final group for what should be a humdinger against Phil Mickelson, making a record 10th Cup appearance for the U.S., and Keegan Bradley.
“I really want to see what they’ve got. I told them ‘I‘m going to throw you in the ocean without a life preserver -- you’re on your own,'” Watson said of his fledgling duo.
“They have a job to do, and I tell you, these kids are tough kids, both of them.”
McGinley said he wanted to get Gallacher exposed early and knew Poulter, who has won 12 of his 15 Ryder Cup matches, was the ideal partner.
“There’s going to be a big atmosphere in that group. We’ll need a guy with a big attitude for that, and I think Ian Poulter fits that bill and is looking forward to that role.”
Unsurprisingly, Europe’s “Mr Ryder Cup” was excited.
“Absolutely buzzing, playing with Stevie G, home course, in Scotland, first Ryder Cup, it’s going to be amazing,” said Poulter, who is seeking a remarkable eighth successive victory.
The competition will get underway with Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson taking on Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson, who won both their fourball matches in 2012.
Dane Thomas Bjorn and Germany’s Martin Kaymer, who struck the winning putt two years ago, take on Rickie Fowler and Walker in the second match out.
Each captain introduced his team, then revealed the fourball lineups, on the opening ceremony stage in front of a crowd cranked up to a frenzy by big-screen highlights of classic Ryder Cup moments, military bands and a parade of Scottish Commonwealth Games medalists.
Watson and McGinley both said they intended to have all 12 players in action during Friday as favorites Europe begin their campaign to secure an eighth victory in 10 contests and the U.S. seek a first away success since 1993 when Watson was also captain,
They were both, however, keen to play down the importance of the initial pairings, despite the near-frenzy of media excitement over the first tangible news of the build-up period.
“The Ryder Cup’s not going to be determined tomorrow, there will be a lot of ebb and flow and I’ll no doubt make some mistakes,” said McGinley, who, as expected opted to split up regular partners McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.
”Things evolve and Sergio and Rory have formed a real bond and friendship and respect for each other’s games during the summer. It was a natural fit.
“Graeme is a big player, he loves the big atmosphere and I’d love to have him out there. But there’s a lot of big atmospheres between now and Sunday night.”
McIlroy, who has had a somewhat sticky relationship with his fellow Northern Irishman following a court case involving McIlroy’s former management company, was delighted with his new Spanish buddy.
“I couldn’t ask for a better partner,” he said. “I think that it was only a matter of time before we got together in the Ryder Cup and what a great way to start -- against Phil and Keegan.”
The first match tees off at 2.35 a.m. ET, with the others following at 15-minute intervals.
Editing by Ed Osmond