Rahm and Hatton to launch Europe's Ryder Cup defence

golf28 September 2023 15:22| © Reuters
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Jon Rahm © Getty Images

European captain Luke Donald said Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton will "bring fire and passion" to start Europe's bid to reclaim the Ryder Cup when they take on world No 1 Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns in Friday's opening foursomes match.


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The captains revealed their morning groupings during Thursday's opening ceremony and Donald said of his first two men out: "They are very passionate. I think Jon feeds off a playing partner with similar kind of fire and passion. He wants to feel like he's out there with a teammate that's really engaged with him. Tyrrell really fits that bill.

"The Ryder Cup means a lot to both of those, I found that

out over the last couple of weeks. Jon was really inspired

by the Ryder Cup back in '97. It was the first time he really came to golf - the Ryder Cup at Valderrama.

"I think their personalities match up, the statistics point towards a very strong partnership."

After that match gets things underway at 05.35 GMT, Viktor Hovland and Ludvig Aberg face Max Homa and Brian Harman in a match containing three rookies, followed by Shane Lowry and Sepp Straka against Rickie Fowler and Collin Morikawa.

The morning line-up is completed by a European heavyweight pairing in Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood taking on Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay.

Donald said he hoped to use all 12 players on Friday but, aware of the hot conditions and a tough, hilly course, would need to manage the team carefully.

"Am I going to play a lot of people five times? Probably not," he said. "We'll have to see how the few sessions go on early, but certainly the thinking and the planning is for making sure that on Sunday hopefully you have 12 guys that are ready to go because there is 12 points on Sunday and you want people fresh enough."

Donald acknowledged that some of the American pairings who did so well in victory at Whistling Straits two years ago had "astronomical win per centages" but that he did not factor in opposite number Zach Johnson's likely line-ups when making his own plans.

Johnson sprung something of a surprise by leaving wildcard picks Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas out of his morning matches despite them winning both their previous foursomes as a pair.

Instead he said he had no hesitation in pairing two rookies in Homa and Harman in the second match. "History will show that being a rookie is almost irrelevant," he said.

"Those two guys bond and mesh so well together on and off the course that it's a very natural fit."

Donald has changed Europe's opening strategy as he bids to extend their 30-year unbeaten home run. The home side gets to choose whether to start Friday's first session with four foursomes or four fourballs matches, with the other format following in the afternoon session. Saturday sees two more sessions of the team matches before Sunday's 12 singles.

Europe have started with fourballs since 1997 but Donald said he had flipped things round after "a deep dive into statistics of the team".