Wednesday 24 April 2019

'It's a great place for Rory McIlroy to be with responsibility'

Team Europe's Rory McIlroy celebrates a putt on the 5th green
Team Europe's Rory McIlroy celebrates a putt on the 5th green

Phil Casey

Europe captain Thomas Bjorn is convinced Rory McIlroy will thrive on the responsibility of going out first in Sunday's decisive singles at the Ryder Cup.

Former world number one McIlroy has had a mixed event so far but Bjorn has no doubt the Northern Irishman can set the right tempo for the trophy-chasing European side.

The home side take a 10-6 lead into Sunday's 12 matches and need to claim four and a half points to triumph at Le Golf National in Paris.

McIlroy will face Justin Thomas in the opening match, Thomas and Jordan Spieth having beaten McIlroy and Ian Poulter 4&3 in the Saturday foursomes.

"There's a lot of reasons to send Rory out first," Bjorn said. "He's a fantastic player. He likes to play fast. He doesn't like to be held up. He likes responsibility.

"He feels like he's in a place where he can go into that position and get the best out of himself. I have a lot of belief in him, and I trust him as a player, but also trust him very much as a person.

"So it's a great place for him to be with responsibility."

After McIlroy and Thomas get the action under way at 11.05am BST, Paul Casey will tackle Brooks Koepka, Justin Rose will face Webb Simpson and Jon Rahm will go up against Tiger Woods. Both Woods and Rahm will be searching for their first point of the competition.

Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari, who can become the first European players to compile a perfect 5-0 record in the Ryder Cup, will take on Tony Finau and Phil Mickelson in matches five and nine respectively.

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"I went with this set-up because of personalities and the way I see them," Bjorn added. "And I went with this group of guys in this order because I think it covers all the way through the order.

"That American line-up was always going to be extremely strong and it doesn't matter; we need to win our points. They can come from any match."

If it goes down to the final match, all the focus will fall on Europe's Alex Noren and America's Bryson DeChambeau.

United States captain Jim Furyk is confident Thomas can get his side's attempts to fight back off to a flying start in the opening match.

Alongside Spieth, in-form rookie Thomas has won three of his four matches in the competition.

Furyk said: "You know, we want to get out to a fast start. That's key, it's imperative, everyone knows it.

"Any time a team's come back from four points, it's been a fast start and a solid middle to late part of the line-up.

"Right now we've got a feisty guy in Justin Thomas leading us off. He's kind of a little spark plug."

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