Ranking the Ryder Cup’s opening matches by entertainment value

xander cantlay rory matchplay

The first four points are up for grabs on Friday morning, and a star-studded affair will be leading the charge.

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ROME — After a week’s worth of hype, the Ryder Cup is finally, thankfully, mercifully upon us.

A star-studded opening ceremony began with the Italian Air Force’s tre colori buzzing the trees overhead, and when the red, white, and green smoke cleared it was time for proper prognostication to begin.

Among the biggest news was who wouldn’t be participating in Friday morning’s alternate shot matches. Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, the heralded American pairing that has anchored the U.S. team at each of the last two Ryder Cups, was left out of the opening session by captain Zach Johnson. While Euro captain Luke Donald elected to sit his most experienced voice, Justin Rose in favor of his least experienced, Ludvig Aberg.

If you’re back stateside, it’s understandable if you find yourself performing some careful sleep schedule gymnastics preparing for a golf tournament held in the middle of the night. And, if you’re back stateside, we’d like to make it clear that you should be doing these gymnastics. It’s the freakin’ Ryder Cup — there are coffee-makers to program, alarms to set, bosses to alert of your impending lack of productivity, etc.

So, in the spirit of your oncoming red-eyedness, we’re doing the hard work for you, and telling you precisely how to organize your sleep schedule in order to maximize both your REM cycles and your fist-pumps watched.

Below, find our official, definitive, final ranking of the Ryder Cup’s opening matches, by how much sleep you should be willing to lose in order to see them.

4. 2:05 a.m. ET: Rickie Fowler/Collin Morikawa (USA) vs. Shane Lowry/Sepp Straka (EUR)

Verdict: Five minutes … or more

Fowler/Morikawa is the blend of old and new for the Americans on Ryder Cup Friday, with Collin looking to build on a dominant 3-0-1 performance at Whistling Straits and Fowler looking to avenge a 3-7-5 all-time record at the Cup. The two golfers make for an interesting mesh of strengths, with Morikawa’s ball-striking proclivities balancing nicely against Fowler’s strength around the greens.

On the Euro side, Lowry and Straka are a pair of big boys with bad intentions. Expect to see the chest bumps flying, drivers pulled from everywhere, and a significant effort to rally the European crowd early.

The U.S. would seem to be more favored in this match than any other entering Friday, so you could choose to sleep. But that chest bump thing sounds pretty fun, too.

3. 1:50 a.m. ET: Max Homa/Brian Harman (USA) vs. Viktor Hovland/Ludvig Aberg (EUR)

Verdict: A half-hour (go to bed after the opening tee shots … or maybe after the front nine … or maybe…)

We would be remiss if we didn’t start this discussion with the pair of Nordic superstars who are suddenly looking like quite the formidable pairing for the Euros. Ludvig Aberg, he of the zero career major starts, will have maybe the hottest player in golf as his match play pairing, Viktor Hovland. Hovland won the Tour Championship last month, and dropped a de facto ace on a par-4 at Marco Simone on Thursday afternoon. (The ace came on Hovland’s second tee ball, presumably after plunking his first in the water, during a practice round — but still!)

Aberg and Hovland possess a devastating combined skillset, particularly considering Ludvig’s strength with the driver in his hands. They will be a very tough out.

On the American side, nobody wanted to believe that Max Homa and Brian Harman were an ideal match play pairing when they played together earlier this week, perhaps because of Homa’s extreme extroversion and Harman’s extreme introversion. But now the two Ryder Cup rookies will carry the torch in the Americans’ second match of the tournament.

“Those two guys bonded and meshed so well together on and off the golf course,” Johnson said of the pairing. “It was a very natural fit.”

Interestingly, both rookies seem to be flying under the radar — a surprising development considering Homa’s dominant performance at last year’s Presidents Cup and Harman’s cold-bloodedness at the Open Championship at Hoylake. Add in the fact that both have extensive American match play resumes prior to this Cup, and suddenly you understand why Johnson felt comfortable sending both out together.

2. 1:35 a.m. ET: Scottie Scheffler/Sam Burns (USA) vs. Jon Rahm/Tyrrell Hatton (EUR)

Verdict: What’s another few minutes awake?

This match has early brawl potential, with the two best players on the PGA Tour (Scheffler and Rahm) battling it out in the Cup’s very first match. Expect the energy surrounding the first tee to be positively explosive, with 5,000 fans smushed into the massive grandstand horseshoeing the first tee box.

Burns and Scheffler were a surprisingly underwhelming match play pairing in their first start together at the Presidents Cup last September, but plenty has changed since then. The pairing represents another effort by Johnson to combine ball-striking strength with putting prowess. On the Euro side, Rahm and Hatton are two of the most visibly passionate pros we’ve ever seen on the Ryder Cup stage, and their ability to throw punishing combinations at Scheffler/Burns could send the Euro fans into a tizzy.

It’d be malpractice if you didn’t stay up for the opening tee shots of the Ryder Cup. Once you’re up, well, load up the coffee machine, it’s gonna be a long Friday.

1. 2:20 a.m. ET: Xander Schauffele/Patrick Cantlay (USA) vs. Rory McIlroy/Tommy Fleetwood (EUR)

Verdict: I never liked sleep anyway.

What’s that you say? The first truly marquee matchup of Ryder Cup week will hit the turn shortly before 4 a.m. on the east coast? How exciting!

But you know you can’t go to bed on Xander and Pat against the long-desired FleetwoodMac pairing. You simply can’t. It would be heretical, even if it means you wind up watching the sunrise while you do it.

That’s okay, though — it’s the Ryder Cup! You can sleep when you’re dead.

***Watch go behind the scenes at the Ryder Cup at the video below, Seen and Heard***

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