MEDINAH, Ill. -- On paper, Europe gets the nod in the first two foursomes matches Friday morning, with the final two too close to call. It's obvious, then, that the US will need to come out ready to play, because Jose Maria Olazabal has paired players who are accustomed to winning Ryder Cup matches, and their success early could have a trickle-down effect.
Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell batting lead-off for the Euros, followed by Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald? Heavy hitters right there. Donald and Garcia have never lost when paired in the Ryder Cup (4-0), and nobody -- not even Brandt Snedeker -- is hotter than McIlroy over the past six or seven weeks.
Interesting, then, that Snedeker will team with Jim Furyk against McIlroy and McDowell. Snedeker said his confidence is at an all-time high, so he might be the right guy to face McIlroy. Furyk is a shaky pick, in my opinion, and I'm surprised he's getting sent out first. Perhaps Snedeker can carry him a little bit.
The second match is the one I'll be following, and not just because Keegan Bradley is in it. Paired with Phil Mickelson, who's been playing much better, they'll go up against Garcia and Donald, arguably Europe's best pairing. Can the intensity and passion Bradley and Mickelson bring be enough to do something that's never been done before?
Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson might not score highly on the Q scale, but I like their games. I think they'll play well together and can beat Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari. I'm curious to see anything even remotely resembling emotion from Dufner.
Pairing Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods together was a guarantee; the only unknown was when they'd get sent out. Overall, they have a good record as partners (6-3), but the last time they played a foursomes match in the Ryder Cup, they lost to Donald and Westwood, 6 and 5.
Before a ball is struck, this Ryder Cup has been hyped as one of the best ever. Friday morning's matches, on paper, look like we'll get the competition off on the right foot.