Ryder Cup: McIlroy to lead from front as he and McDowell face Furyk and Snedeker

RORY McIlroy, the world No 1, will lead from the front when Europe’s defence of the Ryder Cup gets under way today at Medinah but Scotland’s Paul Lawrie will sit out the first foursome session in the 39th staging of the biennial match.

McIlroy and fellow Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell, two former US Open champions, have been sent out first by the European captain, Jose Maria Olazabal, and will face Jim Furyk, making his eighth appearance, and rookie Brandt Snedeker in the top match.

“We are not hiding anything. We are not second guessing here. We are trying to win points. That’s it,” said Olazabal after unveiling his opening line-up, which possibly saw Italian Francesco Molinari pip Lawrie as Lee Westwood’s partner in the third match, where they will face Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson.

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Olazabal dismissed a suggestion that Molinari was a “surprise” selection for the crucial opening session. “Look at his game,” he replied to that.

“He’s a steady player. He is straight off the tee and hits good iron shots. That’s what you look for in foursomes. You have to have guys who are consistent and I feel Francesco is one of those guys.”

Olazabal’s second pairing, Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia, will be defending a 100 per cent foursome record – they won twice at both Oakland Hills in 2004 and The K Club two years later – against Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley.

The bottom match, meanwhile, sees English duo Ian Poulter and Justin Rose reunited – they took two points out of three at Valhalla four years ago – against Steve Stricker and
Tiger Woods.

Olazabal, who appealed to the Chicago sporting public in his speech at the opening ceremony to be “fair” over the next three days, added: “We have to go for it. We have to make a bunch of birdies. So I have sent my best players out there to see if they can win points.”

Asked what he thought the message his great friend Seve Ballesteros would have been to the European players here, Olazabal said: “Just play hard, play with passion and win the damn points.”

US Captain Davis Love III said his toughest decision had been telling four players, including US Open champion Webb 
Simpson and Masters winner Bubba Watson, they would be sitting out the opening session. He said: “These are the guys we thought made really good 
alternate-shot foursome teams.

“Order-wise there was not a whole lot of rhyme or reason to it. We wanted to get Brandt going as he likes to get out there so he was a good one to lead off.” Love revealed he had paid no
attention to the fact Stricker and Woods had suffered two heavy defeats in their last two outings. They were hammered 7 and 6 by Donald and Westwood at Celtic Manor and then lost 6 and 5 to Adam Scott and KJ Choi in the Presidents Cup.

“They have won a lot of matches, too, in international competition,” he said.

“They wanted to play together and have done pretty well 
together, so I’m going to let them go.”

1:20pm: Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker v Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell

1:35pm: Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley v Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia

1:50pm: Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner v Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari

2:05pm: Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods v Ian Poulter and Justin Rose