Thursday 8 December 2016

Darren Clarke sends experienced pairs out with rookies in Ryder Cup practice at Hazeltine

Phil Casey

Published 27/09/2016 | 16:55

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland (C) shows his putter to European team Vice-Captain Ian Poulter (L) and Andy Sullivan of Great Britain during team photos at Hazeltine National Golf Course in Chaska, Minnesota
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland (C) shows his putter to European team Vice-Captain Ian Poulter (L) and Andy Sullivan of Great Britain during team photos at Hazeltine National Golf Course in Chaska, Minnesota

Europe's players got their first taste of Ryder Cup venue Hazeltine on Tuesday as captain Darren Clarke relied on his experienced players to guide their rookie team-mates.

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With half of his 12-man team making their debuts, it was no surprise to see two rookies in each of the three groups which made their way on to the course in chilly conditions.

Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood made up the first group with Rafael Cabrera Bello and Masters champion Danny Willett, with wild card Thomas Pieters and Matt Fitzpatrick alongside Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose.

Open champion Stenson and Olympic gold medallist Rose won all three of their matches together at Gleneagles in 2014 and look set to feature again as Europe seek an unprecedented fourth straight victory.

The final group contained new FedEx Cup champion Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Chris Wood and Andy Sullivan, with McIlroy and Sullivan a potential pairing after their duel in the final round of the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai last year.

US captain Davis Love kept two successful pairings from Gleneagles together, with Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler alongside Zach Johnson and Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth out with Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar.

The final group contained last-minute wild card Ryan Moore and his fellow rookie Brooks Koepka, JB Holmes and Brandt Snedeker.

Speaking about his practice pairings, Clarke said: "There was no real particular reason for who went with who, because today the guys were just hitting their own balls, just getting out to see the golf course.

"Some of them have played before and some of them haven't. So it was just a case of letting them see the golf course and see their thoughts. Obviously we'll discuss it all later on and see what they think."

Clarke does not believe opposite number Love has "tricked up" the course in any way, adding: "It's exactly what I would have expected Davis to do.

"It's playing very fair. The course is playing very long. With that breeze out there this morning, with it being a cold breeze, as well, the course is playing exceptionally long.

"The greens are fast, holding at the moment. I think the course is set up for scoring. It's set up for entertainment, to make birdies and to have the whole excitement of the Ryder Cup be the way that it should be."

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