SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn talked about having plans A, B and C for the 42nd Ryder Cup. It didn’t take him long to jump to plan B for the second session.
Plan A didn’t go too well in the opening four-balls as Europe lost 3-1. Bjorn’s decision to play four of his five rookies was a gamble that didn’t pay off.
Desperate times obviously require desperate measures, so Bjorn went to tried and tested pairings for the first two foursomes. That’s why he threw out Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson against Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler, and Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy against Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson.
He made the wise choice to keep Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood together against Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth in the last match. They were Bjorn’s only successful pairing from the morning session. He got every player into the match on the opening day by pairing Sergio Garcia and rookie Alex Noren against Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau.
Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson playing together is nothing new. They’re 4-2 as a duo over the last two Ryder Cups. The only problem is, they have a better four-ball record than foursomes. They’re 3-1 as a four-ball tandem and 1-1 in foursomes. No wonder many expected the pair to lead off in the opening four-ball match.
Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy were brilliant together as a pairing in 2012. Their one hole victory over Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson gave Europe momentum going into the singles, ensuring the deficit was only four points. However, that victory came in four-balls, not foursomes. They also teamed up in the four-balls in 2014 to earn a half point with Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker.
Here’s the important point: Poulter and McIlroy have never teamed together in foursomes.
Bjorn’s Poulter/McIlroy gamble is even riskier considering McIlory was the weak link alongside Thorbjorn Olesen in a 4 & 2 morning four-ball loss to Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler. Fowler never made a birdie in 16 holes, with rookie Olesen carrying the former world number one.
Reputations aside, if either McIlroy or Olesen deserved to play based on form from the morning session it was Olesen.
Anyone for Plan C?