McIlroy to lead European charge
World number one Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell will lead off Europe's bid to retain the Ryder Cup in Chicago on Friday.
The Northern Irish pair will play Jim Furyk, winner of all his five games at the Presidents Cup last year, and Brandt Snedeker, who last Sunday pulled off a £7million double of FedEx Cup and Tour Championship victories.
In the second game Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia, both unbeaten in foursomes in the match, take on Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, like Snedeker a cup rookie.
Lee Westwood has been given Italian Francesco Molinari as his partner - they face Zach Johnson and another debutant in Jason Dufner - while Tiger Woods is kept until last by home captain Davis Love.
Woods and Steve Stricker will take on Justin Rose and Ian Poulter, who yesterday spoke of wanting to "kill" his opponents in the biennial competition.
Poulter has faced Woods twice before and lost both times, but has won eight of his other nine games.
The action starts at 7.20am local time and the foursomes will be followed by afternoon fourballs.
Woods and Stricker boast a 6-2 winning record together, but their last two games were the 6&5 drubbing by Westwood and Donald in Wales two years ago and then a 7&6 hammering by Adam Scott and KJ Choi at the start of last November's Presidents Cup.
They did not play together again that week after that.
It means the four left out by Olazabal, who cried during the opening ceremony at the first mention of the late Seve Ballesteros, were Scot Paul Lawrie, Germany's former world number one Martin Kaymer, Swede Peter Hanson and Belgian newcomer Nicolas Colsaerts.
The quartet kept waiting to play by Love were his two major winners this year - Masters champion Bubba Watson and US Open champion Webb Simpson - plus Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar.
It would have been a huge shock if McIlroy and McDowell were not together again.
Close friends and compatriots, they had a modest one win, one half and one loss at Celtic Manor two years ago, but won three out of four in the 2009 Seve Trophy in Paris and have twice been World Cup partners as well.
In Donald, Garcia and Westwood Europe can call on three players with outstanding foursomes records in the event.
Donald will be looking to make it a perfect seven out of seven.
His first four wins in 2004 and 2006 came with Garcia as his partner and two years ago he won with Poulter and then with Westwood.
Garcia is unbeaten in nine foursomes, eight of them victories, while Westwood has not lost any of his last 10 games in the format going back to 1999.
His partners in that time have been Darren Clarke, Garcia, Colin Montgomerie, Kaymer and Donald - and now he links up with the Italian whose debut two years ago came alongside his brother Edoardo.
A month after that Molinari pipped Westwood to his first world championship title in Shanghai - with the best of the rest nine shots further back.
Garcia remains the only teenager ever to appear in the match, his debut in 1999 coming a month after he and Woods battled for the USPGA Championship at Medinah.
Jesper Parnevik was his first partner and they won their opening three games and got a half in the other, while in subsequent foursomes the Spaniard has won with Westwood, Donald and Olazabal.
Rose and Poulter won two of their three games together four years ago, Rose not making the 2010 match despite winning twice in America that summer.
Mickelson has won only two of his last 14 pairs games in the event, but was always expected to start with Bradley in his ninth appearance, an American record.
Olazabal told the crowd in his speech his side "have every intention of taking it (the cup) back home" with them and also managed to pay his latest tribute to his former partner Ballesteros, who died in May last year following a long battle with a brain tumour.
"Of course I can't forget a great friend in the name of Seve Ballesteros," he said. "He was a special man. I believe Seve reflected the core of Ryder Cup values - no quitting and be prepared to chase any adversity.
"From him I learnt what true passion is all about. Seve, we miss you."
All eight omitted from the opening session will be hoping to enter the fray in the afternoon fourballs.
It is the first time since 1995 - Mickelson's debut - that neither he nor Woods have been involved in the opening game.
Snedeker's quick pace played a part in Love's decision to go with him and Furyk first.
The hardest part of Love's day, though, was telling "four of the best golfers in the world" they would be sitting on the bench all morning.
He described Woods and Stricker - and also Johnson and Dufner - as "pretty cool customers at the end".
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