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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Big guns out early at Ryder Cup as Scottie Scheffler takes on Jon Rahm

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Scottie Scheffler will start the USA’s bid to end a 30-year wait for Ryder Cup victory on European soil when he lines up with Sam Burns in the first foursomes match against Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton.

World number one Scheffler, who won this year’s Players Championship, will take part in his second Ryder Cup which starts in Rome early on Friday morning.

The Americans last won the Ryder Cup in Europe in 1993 but are currently holders thanks to a crushing 19-9 victory at Whistling Straits two years ago.

“We’re very confident in putting Scottie and Sam out. You’ve got some experience in there, and you’ve got some chemistry in there as well,” USA captain Zach Johnson told reporters.

“Those guys want to get after it, and I’m confident that they can do that.”

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Scottie setting the tone

Scheffler will tee off at 0535 GMT as announced during Thursday’s opening ceremony at a baking Marco Simone Golf and Country Club which is forecast to be hot all weekend.

The idiosyncratic course, situated in undulating Roman countryside which has a view of Saint Peter’s Basilica, would have presented a challenge to both teams due to thick rough, tight fairways and sloping greens without temperatures touching 30 degrees Celsius.

“We knew it was going to be a warm week, certainly the warmest Ryder Cup that I’ve ever been associated with,” added Johnson.

“You compound that with the hills, it’s going to be a difficult task physically.”

Masters champion Rahm has been paired with his friend and partner in foul language Hatton, who chirpily waved off reporters with a four-letter word at the end of his press conference on Wednesday.

Spaniard Rahm, a two-time major winner, and Englishman Hatton halved their match two years ago with Scheffler and Bryson DeChambeau, one of several golfers who are not in Italy after defecting to Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf.

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‘Fiery characters’

“Those are fiery characters. I think their personalities match up, the statistics point towards a very strong partnership,” said Europe captain Luke Donald.

The only LIV player to make the Ryder Cup — Brooks Koepka — isn’t in the USA line-up for the first session as Johnson picked three of his four rookies, including Burns.

British Open champion Brian Harman plays alongside Max Homa, who like his partner is making his first ever appearance at the tournament although he did win all four of his matches at last year’s Presidents Cup.

They will take on Viktor Hovland and young gun Ludvig Aberg, who only turned professional in June but has already achieved enough to be handed first ever Ryder Cup appearance by Donald.

Norwegian Hovland, arguably the world’s most in-form player after back-to-back BMW Championship and Tour Championship titles last month, delighted fans earlier on Thursday with a hole-in-one at the par-four fifth hole during his practice round.

“History will show, and you can look it up, that being a rookie is almost irrelevant,” said Johnson.

“Yeah, he (Homa) hasn’t played in a Ryder Cup, but he knows team matches… those two guys bond and mesh so well together on and off the golf course that it’s a very natural fit, both as a tandem and for the golf course.”

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Rory and Tommy join forces

Rory McIlroy, the most experienced Ryder Cup player in the Italian capital with six appearances, has been selected by Donald with Tommy Fleetwood to take on Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay, who each won three matches in 2021.

Northern Irishman McIlroy was expected to partner good friend Shane Lowry, who instead has been partnered with rookie Sepp Straka against Rickie Fowler and Collin Morikawa, the only American to ever win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.

The foursomes session will be followed by four fourballs matches on Friday afternoon.

AFP

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