As Hazeltine approaches, it's time to gaze into the Ryder Cup crystal ball to predict some of captain Darren Clarke’s potential European pairings

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5 Potential European Ryder Cup Pairings

The European team is a 50/50 split of rookies and experienced Ryder Cuppers, and there’s no doubt that many, if not all, of the first-timers will make their maiden appearances in the company of an old-hand.

Any rookie-rookie pairings would be a brave call for captain Darren given the criticism it would attract if they were taken apart by an American team heavily loaded with experienced Ryder Cup players.

Given that, which rookie/old-hand pairings might we see heading out over the first two days at Hazeltine?

Sergio Garcia & Rafa Cabrera-Bello

Obvious, of course, given the scope for a little language mind games at critical moments. But more importantly, this is the perfect time for Sergio, a veteran of seven previous Ryder Cups, to play the role that Seve once played when a young Jose Maria-Olazabal made his debut in 1987.

Will Sergio take Rafa under his wing at Hazeltine Seve-style?

Will Sergio take Rafa under his wing at Hazeltine Seve-style?

Believe it or not, Sergio is now into his late 30s, and as someone who lives and breathes the Ryder Cup almost as much as Seve did, he will relish the chance to guide his compatriot through his maiden match.

Lee Westwood & Danny Willett

We’re going for the Chubby Chandler ISM connection here. Westwood has been brought in for the vast amount of experience he brings to the side; Willett is, of course, the current Masters champion and Race to Dubai No.1.

Westwood and Willett to play together again at Hazeltine? We think so...

Westwood and Willett to play together again at Hazeltine? We think so…

Now that the former World Amateur No. 1 has really found his professional stride, he won’t be lacking in confidence, but the Ryder Cup is a different kettle of fish, and the vastly experienced Westwood could help to quickly settle any nerves. They played together in the last round at Augusta too.

Henrik Stenson & Thomas Pieters

Let’s make no bones about this one – we’re going for a pairing that could simply bludgeon its opponents into submission with its colossal power.

If Stenson and Pieters were on fire they could prove an unstoppable Ryder Cup pairing

If Stenson and Pieters were on fire they could prove an unstoppable Ryder Cup pairing

The Americans have some big hitters too, of course, but Stenson is the Open Champion and Olympic silver medallist, while the young Belgian is the hottest player on the team in terms of current form. Expect some big-hitting fireworks if Clarke goes with this one.

Rory McIlroy & Matt Fitzpatrick

Fitzpatrick is arguably the player to make the most rapid breakthrough to golf’s very top level since McIlroy himself, forcing his way into the automatic spots in just his second full season on tour.

Rory's power and Fitzpatrick's accuracy could prove a formidable alliance

Rory’s power and Fitzpatrick’s accuracy could prove a formidable alliance

He may lack McIlroy’s power, but has been one of the very best iron players on tour over the last two seasons. With McIlroy finally turning things round on the greens, the two could make a formidable fourball pairing.

Justin Rose & Andy Sullivan

There may be question marks about the current form of last year’s joint most prolific European Tour winner, but Sullivan is a fiercely determined young man and Olympic champion Rose could be just the player to bring out the best in him.

This will be Rose’s fourth Ryder Cup, and with a 67% strike rate and memories of his extraordinary finish against Phil Mickelson at Medinah, his indifferent post-Rio form, including a spectacular meltdown on the final nine of The Deutsche Bank, will quickly be forgotten.