The 2012 Ryder Cup finally tees off about 8:20 a.m. ET Friday morning with four alternate-shot-foursome matches at Medinah Country Club outside Chicago. The Ryder Cup is often cited as the biggest spectacle in golf, intensifying over the past two decades into much more than an exhibition.
The American team has typically struggled in foursomes and four ball, but U.S. captain Davis Love III switched things up a bit when announcing his lineup at the opening ceremonies on Thursday. Typically, either Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson (or both) lead off the weekend in the first match, but Love opted to go with a rookie and a veteran in Brandt Snedeker and Jim Furyk. Both played well in Atlanta last week, and Love indicated he wanted to get Snedeker out early.
While Love will hold back his superstars, European captain Jose Maria Olazabal is sending the power pairing of Northern Irishmen out first. Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell played together two years ago in Wales, and both are extremely comfortable with each other's game in the alternate shot format. There have been rumors floating around that McDowell is struggling with his short game, which could become an issue around the green if McIlroy is not striking his irons. That first point is always huge, and Furyk is trying to silence critics who consistently bring up his unremarkable Cup record.
The Euros also likely have the advantage in the second match of the day, as Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia have been a near invincible pairing over the past decade. They'll face Phil Mickelson, and the young star he's taken under his wing over the past two years, Keegan Bradley. Mickelson will undoubtedly have to calm down the amped up Bradley, and these two could hit it all over the yard in alternate shot.
The third match features four of the most accurate drivers and iron players in the world. Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson were expected to be paired together, with both having the most consistent summers on Tour. Ollie countered with the veteran Lee Westwood and Italian Franceso Molinari, who will likely be in Medinah's wide fairways all day.
In the anchor match, Love will send out the duo of Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods. These two began playing together at the Presidents Cup three years ago, going 5-0 at Harding Park. They were blown out in their opening match last year in Melbourne, and Fred Couples opted to split them up. But both have always wanted to maintain the partnership, with Woods head over heels for Stricker's putter -- a huge asset in alternate shot. They'll certainly be tested by the precocious English duo of Ian Poulter and Justin Rose. Poulter loves the Ryder Cup and is a notorious instigator. Both he and Rose have had plenty of success together in the past, particularly at Valhalla. Here's the complete schedule for Friday morning's opening session:
8:20 a.m. -- Rory McIlroy/Graeme McDowell (Europe) vs. Jim Furyk/Brandt Snedeker (USA)
8:35 a.m. -- Luke Donald/Sergio Garcia (Europe) vs. Phil Mickelson/Keegan Bradley (USA)
8:50 a.m. -- Lee Westwood/Francesco Molinari (Europe) vs. Jason Dufner/Zach Johnson (USA)
9:05 a.m. -- Ian Poulter/Justin Rose (Europe) vs. Steve Stricker/Tiger Woods (USA)
With 24 of the world's top 35 players in attendance, there's bound to be supreme talents left on the bench. Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson and Matt Kuchar will all sit out the morning for the USA. Love has said he'd like to get everyone out the first day, so expect those superstars to make an appearance in the afternoon. The four ball matches are set to tee off at 1:05 p.m. ET, with the two captains setting the lineup during the break.
ESPN will have the broadcast for the first full day before handing things off to NBC for the weekend. They'll come on the air at 8 a.m. for the morning session.