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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

From Rose and Stenson to Woods and DeChambeau - Ryder Cup's most likely pairings

The three-day biennial tournament begins on Friday as Team USA aim to win in Europe for the first time since 1993

Ryder Cup captains Thomas Bjorn and Jim Fuyrk will by now have a pretty clear idea of their pairings, but here we look at the best fits, and even a couple of dream duos that could set alight Le Golf National.

PROBABLE

Europe:

Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson

Oodles of experience and temperaments that complement one another, this is comfortably Bjorn’s most likely pairing. In the past two events, they’re 4-2 together, including the 5&4 thrashing of US totemic tandem Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed two years ago (nine birdies in 14 holes!). Played three of four sessions together in 2016 and also went 3-0 in 2014. Been there and done it, don’t be surprised if they’re first out on Friday.

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Paul Casey and Tommy Fleetwood

Tommy Fleetwood will be making his Ryder Cup debut at Le Golf National. Reuters
Tommy Fleetwood will be making his Ryder Cup debut at Le Golf National. Reuters

A veteran and a rookie, compatriots and seemingly comfortable playing companions. Making his first Ryder Cup appearance in a decade, Casey could pair with a number of teammates, but there appears already a chemistry with Fleetwood. And they have previous: the two teamed up at the EurAsia Cup earlier this year, seeing off Ben An and Kiradech Aphibarnrat 4&3. Both great iron players, they would form a formidable twosome.

Rory McIlroy and Thorbjorn Olesen

Rory McIlroy has a big role to play as one of Team Europe's more established players. EPA
Rory McIlroy has a big role to play as one of Team Europe's more established players. EPA

Having underlined at Hazeltine his transition to becoming one of the team’s central cogs, McIlroy clearly enjoyed the role of taking a rookie under his wing. For Thomas Pieters then – they went 3-0 together – read Thorbjorn Olesen now. The two know each other well, have been paired regularly on tour this season and, crucially, their games fit. No one drives it better than McIlroy, while Olesen’s strength lies in his iron-play and putting.

Ian Poulter and Tyrrell Hatton

Ian Poulter is a formidable Ryder Cup player and a pairing with Tyrrell Hatton would serve Europe well. Reuters
Ian Poulter is a formidable Ryder Cup player and a pairing with Tyrrell Hatton would serve Europe well. Reuters

Another veteran and novice combo, another all-English pairing. Poulter’s record against the US is incredible – since making his 2004 debut he is 12-4-2 – while no one can question his passion for the event. Hatton has plenty of emotion, too, although that often boils over. Having Poulter to help channel that in a positive way will be key. These two will represent England together in November’s World Cup of Golf. An earlier collaboration seems obvious.

USA:

Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed

Patrick Reed has an impressive Ryder Cup record, particularly when paired with Jordan Spieth. Reuters
Patrick Reed has an impressive Ryder Cup record, particularly when paired with Jordan Spieth. Reuters

Fret not Furyk, this partnership picks itself. Brimming with brio and bite, Spieth and Reed have combined in the past two events with great effect. In seven matches in tandem, they have suffered defeat only once, boasting a record that reads 4-1-2. Spieth may not be having his finest season, but he remains as tenacious as they come, while Reed has become something of a talisman. ‘Golden Child’ and ‘Captain America’ is some combination.

Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas

The world No 4 and a major champion, Justin Thomas is no ordinary Ryder Cup rookie. Reuters
The world No 4 and a major champion, Justin Thomas is no ordinary Ryder Cup rookie. Reuters

Close friends, tight professionally and personally – they Spring Break together and are often the first to congratulate each other on wins – this matches up a Ryder Cup regular and rookie. Thomas is not your average novice, though, already a major champion and world No 4. Will mix well in personality and play, as evidenced by their unbeaten run at last year’s President’s Cup. And if consensus suggests matches are decided on putting, then good luck Europe.

Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka

Dustin Johnson's Ryder Cup record is surprisingly mediocre but pairing the world No 1 with Brooks Koepka should work well for Team USA. EPA
Dustin Johnson's Ryder Cup record is surprisingly mediocre but pairing the world No 1 with Brooks Koepka should work well for Team USA. EPA

Two absolute bombers, these gym buddies enjoy pushing each other to success. Johnson’s imperious form has dipped recently, reportedly relating to personal issues, while his Ryder Cup record isn’t great. So putting him alongside this season’s lock for player of the year – Koepka has landed two majors – is perhaps the best way to extract DJ’s best. Tasted defeat the only other time they were paired against Europe, but teamed up to fine effect at the President’s Cup.

Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau

Tiger Woods returned to winning ways at the Tour Championship on Sunday. AP Photo
Tiger Woods returned to winning ways at the Tour Championship on Sunday. AP Photo

Earlier this year, Woods was slated for vice-captain and DeChambeau’s superb recent run had not taken place. Even still, back then Woods was campaigning for DeChambeau – not a bad endorsement, if you can get it. Having just turned 25, the rookie is the second youngest player in France, while he excelled at match-play as an amateur, so he could spark Woods’ into turning around his woeful Ryder Cup record, especially in pairings (9-16-1). Played numerous practice rounds together this season, so they clearly get on.

PLUM (that we’d love to see)

Europe:

Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm

McIlroy channelling his Hazeltine thunder and Rahm channelling, well, standard Jon Rahm, would be explosive and exciting and probably produce some unbelievable golf. Yes please.

USA:

Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed

Woods Reimagined adds an intriguing subplot to the event, so who better to amp him up than Reed, who’d absolutely love playing alongside his childhood hero? The collective grit involved, not to mention the games, would be a must-watch.