Did we just get our first hint of potential Ryder Cup pairings?
Quick question: What’s one of the very best things about Ryder Cup week? Easy. The anticipation. And what comes with anticipation? Way too much over-analysis and prognosticating.
But it’s Monday, and the Ryder Cup doesn’t even start until Friday, and Day 1 pairings won’t even be announced until Thursday. So we have time to kill. And that brings us to our next point, the point of this story.
While we may have to wait until Thursday to see which players team up to face the other side on Friday morning, we might have gotten our first glimpse at potential pairings on Monday afternoon. The PGA of America announced the interview schedule for the week and, per usual, players from the U.S. and Europe are split into three groups of four to meet with the press. That’s also often a good indication of potential pods and who might play together this week.
Let’s break it down really quick. Here is the interview schedule:
U.S.: Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Bryson DeChambeau, Scottie Scheffler
Europe: Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland, Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia
U.S.: Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Dustin Johnson, Collin Morikawa
Europe: Ian Poulter, Shane Lowry, Tommy Fleetwood, Bernd Wiesberger
U.S.: Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau, Daniel Berger, Harris English
Europe: Paul Casey, Matt Fitzpatrick, Tyrrell Hatton, Jon Rahm
So, what does that mean? It might mean something. It also might mean nothing. But let’s put on our thinking caps anyway. After all, on Monday at Whistling Straits, the captains were asked how much stock the media should put into practice pairings this week.
“Read into it like you should; that’s your job in the media to make a story out of it,” Padraig Harrington said. “… It’s for you to figure it out and not me to tell you.”
We agree! So let’s do it.
For starters, let’s look at the U.S. first. On Tuesday, Spieth and Thomas are in the same interview foursome, and it would surprise absolutely no one if they team up on Friday. The childhood pals were 3-1 together at the last Ryder Cup in Paris — remember that whole Spieth/Patrick Reed break-up thing? — and should be a strong tandem once again. DeChambeau and Scheffler also makes sense, mostly because there’s been a lot of discussion about who would play well with DeChambeau, who still is looking for his first Ryder Cup point. Scheffler might be a good option.
Now, for the Wednesday bunch. Pairing Schauffele and Cantlay seems like a no-brainer. They are close, have similar personalities and were 2-2 together at the 2019 Presidents Cup. The other duo in his group, Johnson and Morikawa, would also make sense. The long-hitting DJ paired with the best ball-striker on the planet isn’t a crazy idea by any means.
Lastly, let’s look at Thursday’s group. Koepka and Finau were 1-1 together in two fourballs matchups in Paris, so getting the band back together there doesn’t seem odd. And that leaves Berger and English, two rookies who complement each other well. Berger is strong off the tee and with his irons, while English excels around the greens and with his flatstick.
“We got a really good, sound gameplay already in play, but there’s always little things that can creep up along the way,” said U.S. captain Steve Stricker on Monday. “A guy can be playing poorly or get hurt, so you have to be prepared with multiple options. And we are.”
As for Europe, it gets a little more difficult to try and piece together pairings, and Harrington might not even be setting up these press conferences that way anyway.
But at first glance, McIlroy and Hovland seems like a tough match for anyone, and teaming two strong veterans like Westwood and Garcia might be another difficult matchup for the U.S., especially for an inexperienced duo.
As for the Wednesday interview group, Fleetwood will be looking for a new partner in crime this year, as his Paris partner, Francesco Molinari, didn’t make the team. The duo went 4-0 in 2018. Any combination of these four would make sense, as Poulter has been such a strong Ryder Cup player that he could seemingly elevate any partner.
In the final interview group, Hatton and Rahm could form a strong, fiery team, while two more subdued players like Casey and Fitzpatrick could also work. But don’t forget Casey and Hatton went 1-1 together in fourballs in Paris, so there’s certainly the possibility of that pairing repeating itself.
So, will any of this pan out? Who knows. But we might get an even better idea when teams start to practice in pods on Tuesday. We’ll just have to wait until Thursday’s announcement to be sure. Until then, let the prognosticating continue.