Friday’s opening match of the Ryder Cup is “big for both sides” said Padraig Harrington after Europe’s Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia were paired against Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas.
Garcia has amassed 25½ points, the same as the entire US team combined, although Spieth and Thomas won three of their four matches together in 2018.
“Everybody could have predicted the first,” said Europe captain Harrington.
“They’re putting their best out, we’re putting our best out, let’s have a go.”
World number one Rahm said going out first for his side is “a big honour”, especially because he is playing with fellow Spaniard Garcia.
“It means the captain has faith in me and who I’m partnered with. We are looking to start it the right way,” said 26-year-old Rahm, who won the US Open in June to claim his first major.
“There is nothing better than to be paired with my friend.
“Spanish legacy is deep in the Ryder Cup and I’m hoping we can start a new tradition,” he added, referring to the likes of Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal.
The 43rd Ryder Cup, at Whistling Straits on the shore of Lake Michigan, will open with four foursomes (alternate shot) matches, with four fourball matches played in Friday’s second session. The pairings for those matches will be announced towards the end of the foursomes.
Harrington has opted for experience in the last of the foursomes matches, putting Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter together. They face American rookies Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele.
“I’ve got 12 players who could play foursomes, there’s nobody in my team that couldn’t play foursomes,” added Harrington.
“Everybody could’ve played and it was tough to have to let people rest.”
The Irishman says his aim is to play all of his 12 players on Friday. “Everyone’s getting a game, everybody should get a game on day one,” he added.
“You’ve got to get them out there and see how they enjoy the atmosphere and see how they get on.”
Poulter, one of Harrington’s captain’s picks, is playing in his seventh Ryder Cup. He and McIlroy won one of their two foursomes matches when Europe romped to a 17½-10½ victory at Le Golf National in Paris in 2018.
Cantlay won the PGA Tour’s season-ending Tour Championship earlier this month – which also earned him a $15m bonus as the FedEx Cup champion – and he was named player of the year by his fellow professionals, while Schauffele won the Olympic title in Tokyo in August.
American captain Steve Stricker, who is using four of his six debutants in the opening session, says he feels “great” about his pairings.
“Some teams have played together over the years, whether in the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup,” he said.
“We are really excited about how these guys are playing and the order they are going out. It is in their hands now and they are excited to get going.”
Open champion Collin Morikawa is another rookie and he will partner world number two Dustin Johnson against England’s Paul Casey and Norwegian Viktor Hovland, who at 24 is the youngest player in the European side.
Hovland is the only one of Europe’s three debutants playing in Friday’s opening session with Shane Lowry and Bernd Wiesberger sitting it out.
Four-time major champion Brooks Koepka, who said in the run-up to this event that he finds it “tough, hectic and odd” to play at a Ryder Cup because the event takes him away from his usual routine, is playing with another debutant in Daniel Berger against English pair Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick.
The three-day contest will see another four foursomes and fourballs matches played on Saturday, with 12 singles matches on Sunday, meaning there are 28 points to play for.
As defending champions, Europe need 14 points to retain the trophy, while the US need 14½ to regain the gold cup.
Europe have won nine of the past 12 Ryder Cups but have not triumphed on American soil since the ‘Miracle of Medinah’ in 2012, with six of the past seven events being won by the home side.