Golf Monthly staff writer Nick Bonfield analyses the USA and European teams and comes up with some possible Ryder Cup pairings
As the 40th contest at Gleneagles edges ever nearer, media attention has understandably shifted towards possible Ryder Cup pairings.
Both Paul McGinley and Tom Watson have been subjected to a barrage of questions on the topic in their two press conferences this week.
And although neither captain has offered anything explicit or revealed any concrete partnerships, some of their actions and comments have been quite telling.
The Irishman seemed to poor cold water on the prospect of a McIlroy/McDowell pairing while talking to the press on Monday, pointing to their indifferent record together.
What’s more, they were sent out in different groups during today’s practice session. And, while McDowell said he’d be happy to play with the world number one during his own press conference, the inference was that he’d prefer to partner someone else.
So, what are some of the pairing we are expecting to see?
All we have to go on at the moment is past records, interpretation of comments, Tuesday’s practice groups and our own analysis.
Below are some pairings I’d be tempted to utilise if I was in McGinley and Watson’s shoes.
Justin Rose and Ian Poulter
They were in the same practice group on Tuesday, they have enjoyed previous success, they are long-standing friends and they have excellent chemistry. Seems like a no brainer to me.
Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer
The rhetoric coming from Gleneagles would suggest that McIlroy and McDowell won’t play together. Kaymer and McIlroy were in the same practice group today, and taking on the players who won three of 2014’s four majors would be a daunting proposition for anyone in the US side.
Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia
Westwood and Garcia are the two most experienced players in the European team and have combined well in the past. Some think Westwood will be employed alongside a rookie, but I believe McDowell can, and will, fulfill that role.
Graeme McDowell and Stephen Gallacher
It looks increasingly unlikely that McDowell will play with McIlroy. The Ulsterman practiced with Gallacher today and he has the experience to guide the Scotsman through his debut.
Henrik Stenson and Victor Dubuisson
I think this would be a very strong pairing indeed. Both Stenson and Dubuisson are aggressive players who could be among Europe’s leading birdie-makers, and I see them as a perfect match, especially in the fourballs.
Thomas Bjorn and Jamie Donaldson
Bjorn and Donaldson have similar skill sets characterised by solidity in all areas, they played together today and they will be comfortable in each other’s company after many years together on the European Tour. This looks like a good foursomes pairing to me.
In terms of the Americans, Watson sent his team out in three groups of four, and that makes our task of prediction a touch easier.
What’s more, the USA captain said in today’s press conference: “There are pairings from the past we are looking very hard at.
“There are certain players we are targeting to play with each other. It’s not rocket science.
“There are certain players who meld very well with each other. But once it starts, things change and it evolves into who you think is playing the best.”
I think we’ll see a rekindling of the Watson/Simpson and Mickelson/Bradley partnerships that fared so well at Medinah two years ago.
Matt Kuchar and Jordan Spieth look a likely partnership – based on different experience levels and today’s practice groupings – as do the aggressive, self-assured Rickie Fowler and a more conservative Jimmy Walker.
That leaves Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson, Hunter Mahan and Patrick Reed.
You can’t help but feel an attritional Furyk/Johnson combination – sufficating oppononets through relentless solidity – would be tough to overcome, while Mahan‘s steady tee-to-green came could combine well with that of the more aggressive and cocksure Reed.
Let us know what pairings you’re expecting to see below