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Schauffele and Cantlay to face McIlroy and Poulter as Ryder Cup opens

Americans Xander Schauffele, the Tokyo Olympic champion, and US PGA playoff winner Patrick Cantlay face Europe’s Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy in Friday’s opening foursomes session of the Ryder Cup.

Pairings revealed at Thursday’s opening ceremony unveiled the lineup for the first session of the 43rd biennial match play showdown between holders Europe and the United States at Whistling Straits.

Europe talisman Poulter and four-time major winner McIlroy, who combined for a foursomes point at Paris in 2018, go off last against Schauffele and Cantlay.

“This is going to be another special match,” Poulter said. “It’s about putting points on the board. We’ve done that a lot for Team Europe and we’re going to do it again.”

Schauffele and Cantlay are Ryder Cup newcomers but played four matches together at the 2019 Presidents Cup.

“Pat and I are looking forward to putting a point on the board and going from there,” Schauffele said.

As McIlroy said of the US duo, “They are rookies but they’re not rookies. Patrick has had a hell of a year and Xander is a great player.”

Spaniards Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia will open for Europe in the first match against Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth at 7:05 am (1205 GMT).

“We were obviously going to lead ourselves with a strong partnership,” Europe captain Padraig Harrington said. “The whole world will be watching that one.”

Top-ranked Rahm won his first major title in June at the US Open while Garcia is the all-time Ryder Cup points leader with 25.5.

“It’s a big honor,” Rahm said. “We’re looking to start it the right way. Spanish legacy is deep in the Ryder Cup and I’m hoping we can start a new tradition.”

“It’s going to be exciting,” Garcia said. “I hope we can play great.”

Spieth is a three-time major champion while Thomas has one major crown.

“(US captain Steve Stricker) has instilled a lot of confidence in me and Justin,” Spieth said. “Very excited to go out and try to set the pace for rest of the team.”

The next match sends Americans Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa against England’s Paul Casey and Norway’s Viktor Hovland.

Second-ranked Johnson won his second major title at last year’s Masters while Morikawa captured his second in July at the British Open.

“We’ve spent a lot of time together so it’s a very comfortable pairing,” said Morikawa. “That helps, especially in alternate shot.”

Match three finds Englishmen Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick facing Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger.

“They’re going to be tough,” four-time major winner Koepka said of the Europe duo. “They aren’t going to make too many mistakes.”

Stricker, whose side boasts nine of the world’s 11 top-ranked players, was pleased with the matchups.

“I didn’t even try to anticipate. We were trying to take care of ourselves,” he said. “I feel great about our pairings. We’re extremely excited about how these guys are playing.”

‘Worth the wait’

The event was delayed a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, those involved not wanting to conduct the Ryder Cup without spectators.

“Seeing all of you out here, it was all worth the wait,” Stricker told thousands at the opening ceremony.

European captain Padraig Harrington admitted, “There were times I figured this might not happen.

“After all the world has been through the past two years, it’s such a joy and relief to be standing here.”

Both captains said nothing in practice this week changed their pairings plans, with Harrington adding all 12 Europeans will play Friday barring a surprise.

“We’re pretty set. I know my plan from tomorrow all the way through,” said Harrington. “We knew our partnerships well in advance.”

Friday’s early foursomes matches will be followed by four afternoon four-balls matches and Saturday will have foursomes followed by four-balls ahead of Sunday’s 12 concluding singles matches.

The United States will need 14.5 points to win the Ryder Cup while Europe need only 14 to retain the trophy.

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