Ryder Cup team captains Steve Stricker and Padraig Harrington have confirmed their selections for Saturday's four-ball session at Whistling Straits.

Europe have their work cut out to retain the title as they lost the day's foursomes 3-1 to trail the United States 9-3 in Wisconsin.

The pressure will therefore be on Shane Lowry and Tyrrell Hatton to get a point on the board when they face Tony Finau and Harris English in the first four-ball match.

That is followed by Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia teaming up for a third time to take on Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth, while Scottie Scheffler and Bryson DeChambeau meet Tommy Fleetwood and Viktor Hovland in match three.

The final match of the session will involve Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa for the USA, with Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy their opponents.

Poulter and McIlroy were well beaten by Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay in Friday's foursomes, but Harrington is showing faith in the pair.

Johnson and Morikawa were successful against Hatton and Paul Casey earlier on Saturday in the foursomes, meanwhile, as they prevailed to hold off a European fightback.

"Dustin and Collin are great players, and again they played great golf – opening up with three birdies," Casey told Sky Sports. "But I'm very proud of how we fought. 

"I think Tyrrell was probably a little bit disappointed. I hit a couple of poor shots. I think Tyrrell felt like he hit a couple of poor shots. But what a fight. 

"Tyrrell is such a gritty little player and he's a key part of our team, and I would team up any time with that guy.

"You know, there was one stage we didn't think we would get them as far as we did, and then I guess we had a chance to take them all the way and make it a great battle. 

"But you tip your cap to Collin and Dustin. There's a reason why they are as good as they are, and they are clearly very, very difficult to beat."

Europe captain Padraig Harrington lamented a difficult start against the United States but remains upbeat, buoyed by the defending Ryder Cup champions managing to halve the final two matches on the first day.

Team Europe face an uphill battle trying to retain their crown at Whistling Straits, where hosts USA hold a commanding 6-2 advantage – the biggest opening-day lead at the Ryder Cup since 1975.

Europe struggled for answers as Team USA starred in the morning foursomes and afternoon four-balls, with four-time major champion Rory McIlroy losing both his matches and subsequently dropped for Saturday's foursomes.

While the start of Europe's defence did not go according to plan, Harrington highlighted the importance of Jon Rahm-Tyrrell Hatton and Viktor Hovland-Tommy Fleetwood halving their respective matchups against Scottie Scheffler-Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Thomas-Patrick Cantlay late in the day.

"No doubt it was a tough day," Harrington told reporters. "Clearly not what you wanted, 6-2. There's obviously still 20 points to play for. We've only just played for about 25 per cent 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 momentum, the odd putt didn't go in, and you need a bit of momentum. Things didn't go against us.

"But hopefully, I just think the last couple of matches there, when it was really, really tight, the boys came through, and it certainly felt like we couldn't have afforded -- those two halves at the very end were crucial for us, Tyrrell with the birdie on the last, very, very important in those situations.

"As much as we would have liked to have gotten wins on the board, we couldn't afford -- we didn't feel like we could afford to have lost those matches. Maybe a little bit of momentum swing there, and we feel good about that. And coming out tomorrow, obviously we need a big day."

Harrington added: "We just didn't hole the putts today. You know, you hole a few putts at the right time, you do create the momentum to move on.

"So it's a sort of Catch 22. Obviously the US played well and obviously they holed the right putts at the right time and fair play to them. We're certainly not second-guessing the way they played. We would like to hole a few more putts ourselves tomorrow and create a little bit more good feeling and vibes for ourselves."

"You can't just turn around and try to eat into a lead straightaway in one session," he continued. "It would be lovely if it happened, but you can't think like that. You've got to do it slowly, one step at a time.

"We've got 20 points to play for, and we've got to prepare ourselves for, hopefully for us at this stage [it is] a long battle all the way through. If we are going to get this done, it's going to be a very tight one."

American counterpart and USA skipper Steve Stricker added: "It's a great start. We are very happy with the start. But my message to the guys before I left 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, and let's keep our foot down and continue to play the golf that we know we can play.

"That's what we're trying to do and not try to get complacent with anything. You know, we've had some things that came up and bit us in the rear in other Ryder Cups, so these guys know that, and they are focused on tomorrow and coming out strong again tomorrow."

Bryson DeChambeau insisted the job is not over for the United States after racing clear of Europe on day one in their quest to wrestle back the Ryder Cup.

Team USA have their biggest opening-day lead at the Ryder Cup since 1975 thanks to a dominant start – DeChambeau and his team-mates earning a commanding 6-2 advantage on Friday.

Ryder Cup holders Europe struggled for answers at Whistling Straits, where hosts USA starred in the morning foursomes and afternoon four-balls.

DeChambeau teamed up with Ryder Cup rookie Scottie Scheffler in the four-ball, halving their matchup against world number one Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton.

Powerhouse DeChambeau hit an astonishing 417-yard drive on the 581-yard par-five fifth hole, setting up an eagle to put himself and Scheffler one up in their four-ball contest with Rahm and Hatton.

Reflecting on the team's red-hot start, DeChambeau told reporters: "Proud of the team. Super proud.

"They fought hard every single shot out there, from what I saw, and, again, looking back on it, this is a great start, but the job's not over. We have two more days. A lot more golf. And we cannot lose our mindset to win."

On DeChambeau's fifth-hole bomb, Scheffler added: "That was probably the most excited he's ever been on a golf course was on number five. That wind, we had it on one of our practice days, and we figured out what he needed to do, so to have an opportunity to do that in competition was amazing. I was jacked up for him as well.

"I think he pushed it a little bit, but he smashed it. So thankfully he pushed it just a touch. If he pulls that ball at all, it's weird, there are two towers behind the green, I can't even describe to you - they are like 250 or 200 yards right of where I'm trying to hit my drive, and it's crazy for him to be able to commit to that shot.

"I know he's very happy to make a three as well; if he made a five, he said he was probably going to go home. It was great. That was a good spark for us and good momentum for the rest of the day."

 

Tiger Woods is absent from this year's Ryder Cup as the 15-time major champion continues his recovery from the February high-speed car crash near Los Angeles that left him with serious leg injuries, and it remains to be seen whether he is capable of playing again on tour.

Despite not being among Team USA's Ryder Cup roster, the American superstar still had a telling influence on Friday, having reached out with a few words of encouragement.

Xander Schauffele revealed Woods sent a message on Thursday and Tony Finau elaborated on the text.

"Harry [Harris English] mentioned to me walking down number nine, like how cool it was that Tiger is so into it," Finau said during his post-round news conference. "I think that's the big thing is he's so invested in this team.

"He's not here physically, but you know, I think the gist of basically what he was saying was I'm cheering you guys on, I'm right there with you and go fight and make us proud.

"We were able to do that, and if TW's watching, thanks for that text, brother, I think it helps us a lot."

Rory McIlroy has been dropped for Saturday's foursomes line-up against the United States as Padraig Harrington's Europe fight to recover from a forgettable opening day at the Ryder Cup.

Team Europe face an uphill battle to retain the Ryder Cup after the USA snatched their biggest opening-day lead since 1975 as the hosts surged 6-2 ahead on Friday.

McIlroy suffered two heavy defeats at Whistling Straits, where the former world number one will watch from the sidelines on Saturday morning.

A 5 and 3 loss to Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele alongside Ian Poulter in the foursomes was followed by a 4 and 3 defeat in his pairing with Shane Lowry against Tony Finau and Harris English in the afternoon four-balls.

McIlroy – a four-time major champion – has been benched for the first time in his Ryder Cup career, having featured in every session since debuting in 2010.

"He's already a leader," Harrington said of McIlroy prior to the pairings being released. "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.

"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."

World number one Jon Rahm and fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia will lead Europe out against USA pair Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger.

Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa will clash with Englishmen Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton, Viktor Hovland and Bernd Wiesberger face American duo Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, while it is a Cantlay-Schauffele and Lee Westwood-Matthew Fitzpatrick showdown.

"I'm very comfortable again with the team I've put out tomorrow," Harrington said. "Wait and see in each of those matches whether they can create their own momentum and then bring that to the team."

Rory McIlroy has been dropped for Saturday's foursomes line-up against the United States as Padraig Harrington's Europe fight to recover from a forgettable opening day at the Ryder Cup.

Team Europe face an uphill battle to retain the Ryder Cup after the USA snatched their biggest opening-day lead since 1975 as the hosts surged 6-2 ahead on Friday.

McIlroy suffered two heavy defeats at Whistling Straits, where the former world number one will watch from the sidelines on Saturday morning.

A 5 and 3 loss to Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele alongside Ian Poulter in the foursomes was followed by a 4 and 3 defeat in his pairing with Shane Lowry against Tony Finau and Harris English in the afternoon four-balls.

McIlroy – a four-time major champion – has been benched for the first time in his Ryder Cup career, having featured in every session since debuting in 2010.

"He's already a leader," Harrington said of McIlroy prior to the pairings being released. "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.

"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."

World number one Jon Rahm and fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia will lead Europe out against USA pair Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger.

Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa will clash with Englishmen Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton, Viktor Hovland and Bernd Wiesberger face American duo Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, while it is a Cantlay-Schauffele and Lee Westwood-Matthew Fitzpatrick showdown.

"I'm very comfortable again with the team I've put out tomorrow," Harrington said. "Wait and see in each of those matches whether they can create their own momentum and then bring that to the team."

The United States snatched their biggest opening-day lead at a Ryder Cup since 1975 as they powered 6-2 ahead of Europe at Whistling Straits.

All of Europe's worst fears were realised on Friday as the cup holders left themselves with everything to do over the weekend.

Rory McIlroy, rather than proving a talisman, suffered two heavy defeats, with world number one Jon Rahm's excellence not enough to prevent a landslide as Steve Stricker's American team dominated.

Rahm and Sergio Garcia put the first point of the day on the board, beating Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, but the home side bossed the rest of the morning foursomes to seize a 3-1 lead. Two more wins in the afternoon, and two halved matches, meant another 3-1 session for the USA, who will now look to assure themselves of a big lead heading into Sunday's singles.

There were shots that caught the eye, including an astonishing chip up a steep bank from Spieth in the morning and a 417-yard bomb from Bryson DeChambeau in the afternoon fourballs.

But it was consistent quality from the US team that put them in such a commanding position, with Dustin Johnson and Xander Schauffele both winning twice, including as a pair in the fourballs.

Johnson said: "Today was a great day for both me and Xander, and we both won our matches in the morning and this afternoon. Couldn't have been any better."

Patrick Cantlay, the PGA Tour Player of the Year, played with Schauffele in the morning as they trounced McIlroy and Ian Poulter 5 and 3, and he was then part of the last match of the afternoon, as he and Thomas came from three behind to halve against Viktor Hovland and Tommy Fleetwood.

"For sure I was feeding off JT a little bit, he was carrying me around all day today, he played great," Cantlay said. "Three and one in both sessions, that's a great start. Hopefully we can keep the pedal down and keep doing more of the same."

Europe's fortunes were summed up when Fleetwood hooked his tee shot at 16 into Lake Michigan, with Thomas holing a silky eagle putt to win that hole.

There was a huge boost for Europe, however, when Tyrrell Hatton holed a clutch putt at 18, winning the hole as he and Rahm snatched a half point against Scottie Scheffler and DeChambeau.

Rahm said: "I'm not going to lie: when I hit my bunker shot at 16 and we both had over 15 feet for birdie and they were both within 10 feet, things did look dark, to say the least. Luckily I was able to roll mine in and I told him [Hatton] that we can finish strong and still get this done.

"Not many people are as clutch as he is under pressure and he showed it right here so hopefully this gives him a lot of confidence for tomorrow and we get the ball rolling."


Shot of the day

Spieth conjured up an incredible shot on the 17th after playing partner Thomas had seemingly left him in an impossible position.

Spieth somehow chipped to around four feet away from the pin from the bottom of a steep bank in thick grass beyond railway sleepers. Spieth hurtled down to the edge of the water following his great escape, but his exploits were not enough to prevent Spanish pair Rahm and Garcia claiming the first point of the competition.

The three-time major champion said: "it's kind of one of those shots that you practice as a kid for fun, and you don't ultimately want to have it. And the chances of it going there, you could roll a thousand balls off the green, and it's not going it stay where it was.

"I hit like a 52-degree because a 60 might have gone over the back of my head and just tried to flick it right underneath and hit it as hard as I could, as high as I could."

Player of the day

At his fifth Ryder Cup, Johnson played like he is sick of that losing feeling, having known it three times already. He and Schauffele were a strong pairing in the afternoon, while Johnson guided Collin Morikawa through the morning foursomes. As McIlroy floundered for Europe elsewhere on the course, the US team had a seasoned member of their team step up and lead.

Chipping in

McIlroy: "Xander, Patrick, played wonderful, and Tony – I haven't seen Tony putt as good as that in a long time. When you have got a couple of pairs like that on form, on a difficult golf course where it's sort of hard to make birdies and they go on runs, if you're not quite 100 per cent on top of your game, it's tough. We can come back from 6-2."

Johnson: "Obviously we have a lot of support on our side, and MJ [Michael Jordan] is out there, he's a huge supporter of the Ryder Cup and huge supporter of golf, but it's nice to see him come out and support us."

Tony Finau: "You've just got to enjoy it. All these people out here cheering us on, that's the biggest thing. You have to enjoy it. I learned that in Paris, and the more you can just have fun with it, it seems to keep you loose, and I was able to roll the rock nicely today."

A little birdie told me...

Garcia is Europe's top points-scorer in Ryder Cup history and the Spaniard matched Nick Faldo's record tally of 23 match wins when he and compatriot Rahm drew first blood in the morning session.

Powerhouse  DeChambeau hit an astonishing 417-yard drive on the 581-yard par-five fifth hole, setting up an eagle to put himself and Scheffler one up in their four-ball contest with Rahm and Hatton.

Friday's foursomes results

Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia (Eur) beat Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth (USA) 3 and 1
Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa (USA) beat Paul Casey and Viktor Hovland (Eur) 3 and 2
Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger (USA) beat Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick (Eur) 2 and 1
Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele (USA) beat Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter (Eur) 5 and 3

Friday's four-ball results

Dustin Johnson and Xander Schauffele (USA) beat Bernd Wiesberger and Paul Casey (Eur) 2 and 1
Scottie Scheffler and Bryson DeChambeau (USA) halved with Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton (Eur)
Harris English and Tony Finau (USA) beat Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry 4 and 3
Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay (USA) halved with Viktor Hovland and Tommy Fleetwood (Eur)

Tiger Woods may not be at Whistling Straits, but his influence was felt as the United States made a rip-roaring start to their Ryder Cup trophy bid.

The 45-year-old Woods is continuing his recovery from the February high-speed car crash near Los Angeles that left him with serious leg injuries, and it remains to be seen whether he is capable of playing again on tour.

But the 15-time major winner is willing the USA team to snatch back the cup from Europe, and Xander Schauffele revealed he had been in touch with a few words of encouragement.

Woods, who often struggled to take his world-beating form onto the Ryder Cup stage, had his say before the Americans raced into a 3-1 lead following the morning foursomes.

Schauffele, after teaming up with fellow debutant Patrick Cantlay to land a dazzling 5 and 3 win over Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter, confirmed Woods wanted to offer help from afar.

 

"We got a nice message from Tiger last night," Schauffele said on the Golf Channel.

"I'm not going to reveal what it said, but Pat and I knew and we referred to it a few times today, and we knew what we needed to do.

"We knew he was fist-pumping from the couch. Whether he was on crutches or not, he's as fired up as anyone back at home, so it's nice to have his support."

Woods has a disappointing record of just 13 wins from 37 Ryder Cup matches, an unexpectedly weak performance given his PGA Tour and major championship prowess.

But he remains an idol for many players on the team, with Schauffele and Cantlay two of six rookies on Steve Stricker's roster this year.

Cantlay said: "[There's] no better role model and no better leader and somebody you can always learn from.

"I saw him last week at home and picked his brain on Ryder Cup and applied some of that here today."

The USA pair sped to a 5up lead through five holes on the way to their dominant victory, feeding off the largely American crowd.

A disappointed McIlroy said: "The start wasn't great. I don't know if anyone could have beat Xander and Patrick today.

"They played really good, four birdies in a row. Geez, yeah, they played great. They were a great pairing today, and all you can do is praise them for the way they played."

Ryder Cup team captains Steve Stricker and Padraig Harrington have confirmed their selections for the Friday four-ball session at Whistling Straits.

The United States took a 3-1 lead after the morning foursomes session in the 43rd edition of the tournament, with the hosts looking to wrestle the trophy back from Europe in Wisconsin.

Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia got Europe off to a good start as they saw off Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth 3 and 1, but Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa got the USA back on level pegging, with Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger then edging out Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick.

Ryder Cup debutants Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele did for Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter, and Schauffele will be swiftly back out on the course as he pairs with Johnson for match one of the afternoon four-ball session.

The duo take on Paul Casey and Bernd Wiesberger, with match two seeing Bryson DeChambeau and Scottie Scheffler face Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton.

Match three pairs Tony Finau and Harris English together for the USA, with Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry - who both represented Ireland at the Tokyo Olympics - teaming up.

The final four-ball match of the session will involve Thomas and Cantlay for the USA, with Tommy Fleetwood and Viktor Hovland their opponents.

The United States' position as the heavy favourites to win the Ryder Cup was vindicated as they claimed a 3-1 lead after the foursomes.

Though the first point at Whistling Straits went to Europe's Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm, the other three matches were dominated by the hosts in Wisconsin.

Victories for the pairs of Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa, Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger and Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele left Europe with significant work to do in the fourballs as they bid to retain the cup.

The weight of expectation is firmly on the USA; however, after the Americans rose to the challenge in the opening session, the onus switches to Europe's captain Padraig Harrington, who was eyeing an afternoon improvement to prevent his team slipping to a potentially decisive deficit.

Garcia and Rahm might have feared the worst when the former drove into the bunker off the opening tee.

However, Garcia was superb with the driver thereafter and Rahm excelled with the flat stick as they claimed their match against Justin Spieth and Justin Thomas 3 and 1.

Yet the form that all-Spanish duo produced could not be replicated by their European team-mates.

Morikawa and Johnson soon levelled matters following Garcia and Rahm's triumph, their victory secured when Morikawa converted a short putt from 22 inches on the 16th to defeat Viktor Hovland, who missed a long putt for birdie to keep the match alive, and Paul Casey.

Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele were in command throughout against two Ryder Cup mainstays in Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter.

The American pair won the first five holes and, despite a brief comeback from McIlroy and Poutler, prevailed 5 and 3.

And, while Rahm thrived on the green, Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick could not buy a putt in their loss to Daniel Berger and Brooks Koepka, whose 2 and 1 success put the USA 11.5 points from regaining the cup.

 

Friday's foursomes results

Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia (EUR) beat Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth (USA) 3 and 1
Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa (USA) beat Paul Casey and Viktor Hovland (EUR) 3 and 2
Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger (USA) beat Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick (EUR) 2 and 1
Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele (USA) beat Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter (EUR) 5 and 3

The United States launched their bid to reclaim the Ryder Cup from Europe as the action teed off at Whistling Straits on Friday.

Sergio Garcia, playing alongside Spanish compatriot Jon Rahm, had the honour of hitting the opening shot in the morning foursomes, with Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas providing the opposition.

A raucous crowd created a tremendous atmosphere on the first tee in Wisconsin, with some boos for Europe, for whom Garcia drove into a bunker before Thomas responded by finding the fairway.

Europe, then led by Thomas Bjorn, won by seven points last time out at Le Golf National in 2018 and new captain Padraig Harrington has gone for experience to kick off his team's campaign after a year's delay amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Paul Casey, 44, joins Viktor Hovland against Dustin Johnson and Open champion Collin Morikawa in the next match out, followed by the 48-year-old Lee Westwood and Matthew Fitzpatrick against Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger. 

The final clash of the opening session pits Ian Poulter, 45, and Rory McIlroy against the rookie American duo of Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele. 

Europe have left Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Shane Lowry and Bernd Wiesberger on the sidelines for the opening matches, while Bryson DeChambeau, Harris English, Tony Finau and Scottie Scheffler miss out for the hosts.

The fourballs pairings will be confirmed later in the day.

Friday's foursomes

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

Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter have a combined 46 Ryder Cup matches to their credit, while their opponents in Friday's foursomes, Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele, have none. 

That disparity is of no concern to the American rookies, who expressed confidence they will be able to get the job done at Whistling Straits in the final match of Friday's opening session. 

Considering their form lately, that makes sense. Cantlay enters his first Ryder Cup ranked fourth in the world, while Schauffele – who won Olympic gold this summer in Tokyo – is fifth. 

Cantlay won the final two events of the FedEx Cup playoffs, beating Bryson DeChambeau in a playoff at the BMW Championship and edging Jon Rahm by one stroke to take the Tour Championship. 

The duo also are comfortable playing together. They paired up for the foursomes and fourball at the 2019 Presidents Cup, winning both of their foursomes matches, and each also won his singles match in that event. 

"Xander and Patrick have had success in foursomes in The Presidents Cup, so we thought it was a natural fit for them to do foursomes here tomorrow morning," said USA captain Steve Stricker, an assistant captain with that 2019 team. 

As the final match on the course in the opening session, Cantlay and Schauffele also figure to have the full-throated support of what is expected to be an overwhelmingly pro-USA crowd. 

"It will be fantastic," Cantlay said. "The Wisconsin fans will be showing up and cheering us on all day. They have been great so far this week and those have just been practice rounds." 

Whatever their comfort level, the challenge they face is daunting, as McIlroy and Poulter have played together regularly for years and have exemplary records in Ryder Cup play.

"You always want to play against the best," Schauffele said. "Best way to challenge your game. Pat and I are looking forward to putting a point on the board and going from there."

Their European counterparts will of course have something to say about that. 

While McIlroy was complimentary of the young American pair Thursday, he did note that they will be stepping into an entirely different type of arena Friday. 

"Patrick has had a hell of a year and Xander is a great player," McIlroy said. "Probably doesn't quite compare to what a Ryder Cup is, so they will feel a little different on the first tee tomorrow."

Europe will look to their Ryder Cup veterans to set the tone when play begins at Whistling Straits on Friday. 

Captain Padraig Harrington's four oldest players, all in their 40s, will feature for Europe in the morning foursomes against a youthful USA group whose oldest player, Dustin Johnson, is 37. 

All-time Ryder Cup scoring leader Sergio Garcia, 41, will lead the charge with world number one Jon Rahm as the Spanish pair face Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth in the opening match in Wisconsin. 

"We would have been aware that JT and Jordan would have gone first, obviously, so we were going to lead ourselves with a strong partnership," Harrington told a news conference. "The whole world will be watching that one."

Teeing off next, Paul Casey (44) will team with rookie Viktor Hovland against Johnson and Open Championship winner Collin Morikawa, followed by Lee Westwood (48) and Matthew Fitzpatrick against Brooks Koepka and Danel Berger. 

The final matchup of the opening session will pit Ian Poulter (45) and Rory McIlroy against the rookie American duo of Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele. 

"We've gone with an experienced setup, no doubt about it, but it was our strong setup," Harrington said. "It just happened to be experienced. I was happy with that, there's no doubt, when it came out like that and you're looking at it and you go, yeah, that's very experienced. That is a big bonus.

"But it didn't weaken our fourballs – that was very important. We still have a strong fourball setup and we haven't taken from the afternoon by going with a strong setup in the morning." 

Europe will leave Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Shane Lowry and Bernd Wiesberger on the sidelines for the opening matches, while the USA will do the same with Bryson DeChambeau, Harris English, Tony Finau and Scottie Scheffler. 

While the Europe captain said it was safe to assume his players who will sit out the morning will play in the afternoon fourballs, his US counterpart Steve Stricker declined to be drawn on that topic – though both captains said their foursome and fourball pairings were set and communicated to their teams early in the week.

Each also said he was focused on his own side as opposed to worrying about what the other team might be doing, though both put special emphasis on the first and fourth matches. 

"We talked occasionally about maybe who they're going to put out, but it doesn't matter," Stricker said. "I mean, they're all such great players, they're all highly ranked players and we know that we're going to have to play our best to to beat them.

"We had an idea that Rory and Rahm would probably go one and four, and that's pretty much all we knew, or really thought about. We didn't know who their guys were going to be paired with but we kind of had that figured out, so we tried to act accordingly as well."

Asked whether any of his players had expressed disappointment in not being included in the morning pairings, Stricker immediately responded "not at all." 

"These guys have been incredible," he added. "I can't stress it enough, really, and it's about the communication that we've had, the captains and myself, and being upfront with them and just letting them know what we're thinking, so there's no curveballs.

"We've heard it multiple times from all the players: If you want to play me once, or all five, you know, that's up to you – meaning the captains – and just so we can try to win this Cup."

Friday's foursomes

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth (USA) v. Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia (EUR)
Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa (USA) v. Paul Casey and Viktor Hovland (EUR)
Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger (USA) v. Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick (EUR)
Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele (USA) v. Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter (EUR)

The time for talking is almost done as the coronavirus-delayed 43rd Ryder Cup gets under way at Whistling Straits on Friday.

Europe head into the much-anticipated showdown with the United States as defending champions after winning 17.5 - 10.5 at Le Golf National in 2018.

This year's edition in Wisconsin promises to be as competitive as ever, with USA hoping their team of rookies can prevail against their more experienced European opponents.

Here, Stats Perform picks out the best of the facts and figures ahead of the first tee off.

 

EUROPE'S RECENT DOMINANCE

– This year's Ryder Cup is the 43rd edition, with nearly half of those (21) having pitted Europe against USA. Due to the tournament being delayed by a year by the coronavirus pandemic, this is the first Ryder Cup to be held in an odd year since 1999.

Europe have the upper hand with 11 victories since 1979, compared to eight for USA. There was a tie in 1989, which saw Europe regain the cup having won the previous edition two years earlier.

Europe have won nine of the last 12 Ryder Cups, including half of the last eight played on US soil.

– Six of the last eight Ryder Cups have seen a final score gap of at least five points. The gap was never more than three points in each of the previous eight editions (1987 to 2002).

– This year's Ryder Cup is the first to be played in Wisconsin, making it the 19th US state to host the tournament, with only California, Massachusetts and Ohio having played host on more than one occasion.

– Since 1979, only four of the 20 Ryder Cups have seen a team overturn a deficit going into the singles (1993, 1995, 1999 and 2012).

– USA have won 12 of the 20 singles sessions against Europe since 1979 (60 per cent). However, since 2002, Europe have the upper hand in the Sunday format, winning it six times in nine attempts.

Only two of the 42 Ryder Cups have ended in a tie: 1969 (16-16) and 1989 (14-14).

WESTWOOD LEADS THE WAY FOR EXPERIENCED EUROPE

– With a combined total of 156 matches played at the Ryder Cup, this is the most experienced European team since the 1995 edition (196 matches). Three players are making their debut for Europe: Bernd Wiesberger, Viktor Hovland and Shane Lowry, half as many as the US team (six).

– Fifty per cent of the European team are made up of English players (six out of 12). Since the introduction of Team Europe in 1979, that ties the highest number of English players after 2016.

– In Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm, Spain have a playing representative at the Ryder Cup for the 21st consecutive edition. In fact, other than England, they are the only nation to have had at least one player at every Ryder Cup edition since the introduction of Team Europe in 1979.

– Rahm – world number one and Europe's most recent major winner (US Open 2021) – is playing in his second Ryder Cup. He won only one of his three matches in 2018, but that was the singles match against Tiger Woods, only the American's second ever loss in the singles format after 1997.

Garcia is the highest points scorer in the history of the Ryder Cup (25.5 points out of a possible 41). The Spaniard is taking part in his 10th Ryder Cup – that's every edition since 1999 except 2010. It is also only the third time he has been a captain's pick after 2002 and 2018.

– Rory McIlroy is making his sixth consecutive Ryder Cup appearance (all since 2010), the longest current run among European players. He has played every single session at the tournament since his debut in 2010.

– Viktor Hovland is the youngest player at this year's Ryder Cup – he will be aged 24 years and six days on the opening day of the tournament. He is also the first Norwegian to play in the tournament.

– This is Lee Westwood's 11th Ryder Cup, joining Nick Faldo as the European player with the most appearances in the biennial tournament. If he plays at least four matches, he will overtake Phil Mickelson for the most in the tournament's history. Westwood is also the oldest player at this year's tournament.

HISTORY ON USA'S SIDE

– USA have six Ryder Cup rookies at this year's tournament, the most since 2008. In fact, they have won both previous editions against Europe where at least 50 per cent of their team was made up of newcomers: 1979 (eight rookies) and 2008 (six rookies).

– Eight of the 12 American players at this year's Ryder Cup are aged under 30, which is twice as many as the European team (four out of 12).

– Collin Morikawa is the youngest US player at this year's Ryder Cup – he will be aged 24 years, seven months and 18 days on the opening day of the tournament.

– Tony Finau's first Top 10 at a major came in the 2015 US PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. He won two of his three matches in his only previous Ryder Cup appearance in 2018, setting the second-best points ratio (66.7 per cent) in the US team after Justin Thomas (80 per cent, four points out of a possible five).

– This is Brooks Koepka's third – and consecutive – Ryder Cup appearance. He won three of his four matches the last time it was held in the United States (2016).

– This is Jordan Spieth's fourth consecutive Ryder Cup appearance. He has collected eight points from a possible 11 in fourballs/foursomes, a 73 per cent scoring rate. Only Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus have a better ratio among US players in the team format.

– At 37, Dustin Johnson is the oldest member of this year's US Ryder Cup team. This is his fifth appearance in the showpiece event, winning only one of his previous four (2016). He is the US player with the most matches played in the history of the tournament without a single half point (W7 L9).

– Bryson DeChambeau lost all three of his matches in his only previous Ryder Cup appearance in 2018. He was the only US player to remain scoreless alongside Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, whom he both partnered in 5 and 4 losses.

After three long years, the wait for another Ryder Cup ends this week as the United States and Europe take to the fairways and greens of Whistling Straits. 

Europe are the holders but the USA start as favourites for many observers, with home advantage and a formidable-looking team. 

There will be shocks along the way and there will be some expected stars of the show who end up taking a back seat as unlikely heroes emerge. 

Captains Steve Stricker and Padraig Harrington will have their own ideas of who might be best placed to make a telling impression. 

Here, Stats Perform looks at four players who could make a huge impact across the weekend in Wisconsin. 

UNITED STATES: Super Spieth ready to show his teeth

Jordan Spieth has been a resurgent force this year, finishing second at the Open Championship and in a tie for third at the Masters, while at the other two majors he finished a respectable 19th and 30th. 

The American also ended a four-year wait for a victory on the PGA Tour with a sweet win in his home state at the Texas Open in April and is primed to cap a fine year with a strong Ryder Cup. 

Spieth has mentioned in the build-up that he loves the course set-up at Whistling Straits, which he feels provides scoring opportunities on almost every hole. 

The 28-year-old also referenced his previous Ryder Cup success. He has collected eight points from a possible 11 in fourballs/foursomes, a 73 per cent scoring rate. Only Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus have a better ratio among USA players in the team format. 

UNITED STATES: Nice guy Finau just the man for Stricker's superstars

American teams in the past have been accused of…well…not exactly getting along. Having the ultimate good guy in the team is sure to boost morale and Tony Finau certainly fits that mould. 

But make no mistake, Finau is a guy with real pedigree – even if sometimes he hasn't quite been able to convert that into wins (his triumph at the Northern Trust last month was only his second PGA Tour title and first in five years). 

On his Ryder Cup debut, he was one of few bright notes for Team USA, with Finau winning two of his three matches – including a singles win over the otherwise unflappable Tommy Fleetwood, setting the second-best points ratio (66.7 per cent) in the American team after Justin Thomas (80 per cent, four points out of a possible five). 

Moreover, at the 2015 US PGA Championship, Finau finished 10th having shot four sub-par rounds at Whistling Straits. Finau is the sort of character who can really flourish at a Ryder Cup, particularly with home support behind him. 

 

EUROPE: Europe eye trophy Rahm raid

Jon Rahm is the man for the big occasion. He is the only player to have secured a top-10 finish at all four majors this year, while he is also Europe's most recent victor at one of the leading events, having won the U.S. Open. 

The world number one's Ryder Cup debut did not go entirely to plan in 2018, as he won only one of his three matches, but that triumph was in a singles match-up with Tiger Woods – only Tiger's second loss in the format. 

Now established at the forefront of the sport, Rahm will expect to be the man to lead Europe to glory with an improved all-round showing, justifying his status as the bookmakers' favourite to be the leading points scorer at Whistling Straits. 

EUROPE: Viktor sounds like a winner

Belgium's Thomas Pieters was the top points scorer five years ago at Hazeltine, scoring four points but ending on the losing side. With Norway's Viktor Hovland relishing his debut on the team, could there be another surprise leader on the points board? 

Hovland played college golf for Oklahoma State and has been a familiar figure on the PGA Tour, so playing in America is second nature. He was low amateur at the Masters and U.S. Open in 2019, won the U.S. Amateur, and has come of age since, jumping to a career-high world ranking of number 10 in August. 

Eight top-10 finishes and just one missed cut since the turn of the year show what he brings, and that level of consistent play is bound to appeal to captain Harrington. 

"I'd like to think I have some fans out there that maybe won't necessarily boo against us," Hovland said this week. "But if they do end up doing that, that's what they're going to do. We're still going to play golf, and if they do end up doing that, that means we're doing something good." 

The 43rd Ryder Cup begins at Whistling Straits on Friday a year later than planned, with Europe seeking to retain the trophy after hammering the United States in Paris three years ago.

Delayed by 12 months due to the coronavirus pandemic, golf's most famous team competition makes its long-awaited return after Europe's 17.5 – 10.5 victory at Le Golf National in 2019.

Ahead of the action, Stats Perform explains the format of the contest.

 

HOW THE POINTS ARE SCORED

A total of 28 matchplay contests will be played across three days, with each contest worth one point.

If a match is level after 18 holes, Europe and the United States simply take half a point each.

As holders, Europe need only 14 points to retain the trophy, while their opponents must reach 14.5 to regain the Ryder Cup.

FOURBALLS AND FOURSOMES

The first two days are all about teamwork.

On Friday and Saturday, the morning sessions will involve fourball matches, each team fielding eight players in four pairings.

The fourball format is often known as better-ball as each duo takes their best individual score on each hole. So, for example, if Rory McIlroy makes a three and Jon Rahm a four, it is McIlroy's score that counts.

After the morning fourball sessions, things get interesting in the afternoons as eight more players from each side combine for foursomes action.

In this format, the two men on each team share one ball and take alternate shots, which can lead to some apologetic words between colleagues if a poor shot is played.

SUNDAY SINGLES

A whopping 12 points are up for grabs on the final day of the competition as all 24 competitors go head-to-head in singles matches.

While the captain determines who features on Friday and Saturday, with some players heavily involved and others lightly used or even left out altogether, every single team member is involved on Sunday.

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