World No 1 Jon Rahm was given the opportunity to lead from the front as Tommy Fleetwood and Shane Lowry were left out of the opening session of the 43rd Ryder Cup.
European captain Padraig Harrington selected Rahm and fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia to lead their side’s bid to retain the trophy in the first foursomes match at Whistling Straits.
And they were handed a tough task when US captain Steve Stricker sent out three-time major winner Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, who won three of their four matches together in Paris in 2018.
Their only defeat at Le Golf National came against Europe’s star pairing of Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari, but with Molinari not making the team this time Fleetwood had to sit out the first morning’s action.
Norway’s Viktor Hovland was the only European rookie in action on Friday morning as he partnered Paul Casey against Dustin Johnson and Open champion Collin Morikawa, with Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick taking on Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger.
The final match saw Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter, who won one of their two foursomes matches in Paris, up against FedEx Cup winner Patrick Cantlay and Olympic champion Xander Schauffele.
Friday foursomes and tee times
Draw and tee times for the opening session of the 43rd Ryder Cup, Europe v United States at Whistling Straits, Wisconsin, on Friday, September 24:
(Europe names first, all times BST)
1305 Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia v Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth
1321 Paul Casey and Viktor Hovland v Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa
1337 Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick v Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger
1353 Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter v Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele
What have the captains said?
Stricker said he had not tried to work out which European players would be paired together, but had expected Rahm and McIlroy to feature in the first and fourth matches.
“I feel great about our pairings, some teams that have played together over the years, whether in the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup,” Stricker said. “We are really excited about how these guys are playing and the order they are going out.”
Former US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau was among the players to sit out the opening session but Stricker said no players had expressed any disappointment about his plans.
“These guys have been incredible,” he added. “I can’t stress that enough. It’s about the communication we have had, being upfront with them and letting them know what we are thinking so there are no curveballs.”
Harrington admitted he had had Friday’s pairings in mind “for months” after acknowledging that the duos had played just once together in practice this week.
“We knew our partnerships well in advance and you don’t want to get bored playing with a guy,” Harrington said. “They did have a trial at foursomes but I just did not want them to overdo it.
“You want to turn up on Friday with a bit of freshness and excitement.”