Blog 63, 9/30/10 - Ryder Cup Fourball Picks

The Ryder Cup begins Friday morning with four fourball (better-ball) matches. Here's the line-up of matches and BellinghamGolfer's predictions.

Match 1
Phil Mickelson & Dustin Johnson 
Lee Westwood & Martin Kaymer
The US team comes out guns ablazing, with two of its power-hitters hoping to break the Europeans' will with its 350-yard drives. It's unlikely Westwood will be intimidated however, and he will relish the role of mentoring Ryder Cup new-boy Kaymer who recently won the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. Mickelson too will enjoy leading his good friend, but so much will depend on which Mickelson and which Johnson show up. Good Mickelson (hits 65% of the fairways, and holes 100ft of putts) and Good Johnson (the one that played the final round of the BMW Championship) will win 2up. Bad Mickelson (reckless off the tee, misses anything outside 4ft) and Bad Johnson (the one that showed up for the final round of the US Open) will be lucky to reach the 16th tee.
Mickelson is 5-6-2 in fourball play, Westwood 6-4-2. Johnson and Kaymer are making their debuts.
Verdict: Europe wins 3&2

Match 2
Stewart Cink & Matt Kuchar
Rory McIlroy & Graeme McDowell
So the Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy match-up will have to wait, until the afternoon foursomes at least. The Ulstermen will certainly start favorites in this match - McDowell won the Wales Open on this course in June and McIlroy is No.9 in the world - but rest assured they will be told by their captain not to take the American pair lightly. Cink's 4-7-4 record in the Ryder Cup is a surprisingly poor return for one of America's doughtier competitors. He has the guts to cause a major upset here and will be aided by a reliable partner who just finished a superb FedEx Cup season (11 top-tens).
Cink is 1-0-3 in fourball matches, McDowell 1-1-0. Kuchar and McIlroy are making their debuts.
Verdict: Europe wins 1 hole

Match 3
Steve Stricker & Tiger Woods
Ian Poulter & Ross Fisher
It was a foregone conclusion Stricker and Woods would partner each other, given their tremendous showing at last year's Presidents Cup in San Francisco. What was unexpected, however, is that Corey Pavin would put them out third, neither leading the charge at the front, nor shoring up the final point. "I think Tiger being hidden is a different move," said Montgomerie. "But as you know, every point is important wherever it comes from."
I'm not sure how 'hidden' you can be when you're a) Tiger Woods, and b) Playing in one of only four matches, but Monty's surprise is probably shared by most observers.
Provided Woods's preparations with Sean Foley have gone well, this is the US's most potent pairing and the English duo will likely have their work cut out to keep pace. Poulter had a fantastic Ryder Cup at Valhalla two years ago, winning four points out of five, and in Fisher he has a very able matchplayer (he won the 2009 Volvo World Matchplay in Spain), but the US are favorites here.
Stricker is 0-1-1 in fourball matches, Woods 4-6-0, and Poulter 2-1-0. Fisher is making his debut.
Verdict: USA wins 4&3

Match 4
Bubba Watson & Jeff Overton
Luke Donald & Padraig Harrington
If putting Tiger Woods out in the third match was surprising, how about putting two rookies out in the final match of the morning session? As Montgomerie says, all the matches are important, but those at the end of each session seem more so somehow. What's equally surprising is that Watson doesn't get to play with his very good friend Rickie Fowler (Pavin must have thought they'd be making goofy youtube videos the whole way round), and that Jim Furyk who won the FedEx Cup on Sunday, Hunter Mahan, and Zach Johnson sit the morning out.
Watson and Overton are America's other great powerball pairing, but you couldn't think of two players less likely to be upset by hitting first than Donald and Harrington.
Harrington, though not in the best of form, did shoot a closing 64 in Paris last week and will be desperate to prove he is worth his captain's pick. Donald just finished second at the Tour Championship in Atlanta, and has a superb 5-1-1 Ryder Cup record. It could happen, of course, but it's hard to see the Europeans losing this one.
Donald is 0-1-1 in fourball matches, Harrington 2-5-0. Watson and Overton are making their debuts.
Verdict: Europe wins 4&3

Morning session: Europe 3 USA 1
(Bear in mind, I could be very, very wrong. Let me know what you think of my predictions, and give me some of your own.)

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