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McIlroy faces Mickelson in Ryder Cup opening fourballs

World No.1 Rory McIlroy (L) and the ever-popular Sergio Garcia react after being announced as the final pairing for Friday morning's fourball matches, during the opening ceremony of the 40th Ryder Cup, at Gleneagles in Scotland

By Mitch Phillips

Europe’s Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson will take on Americans Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson in the opening Ryder Cup fourball match on Friday as both captains revealed their initial strategy during a glossy opening ceremony.

Europe’s world number one Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia will meet Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson, who will set an American record of 10 Ryder Cup appearances, to close out the first session.

Mickelson has twice as many Ryder Cups to his name than the entire group before him as American rookies Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed take on Scottish first-timer Stephen Gallacher and the talismanic Ian Poulter, who will be seeking an eighth successive individual win.

Dane Thomas Bjorn and Germany’s Martin Kaymer take on Rickie Fowler and the third American debutant Jimmy Walker in the second match out.
“You are looking at some similarities with both sides, we’ve put some strong teams together and of course we’re both trying to get off to a strong start,” U.S. captain Tom Watson told reporters on Thursday.

“We’ve put out some rookies early too, you like to get them to play their own ball for all 18 holes and that’s why I put them out together.
“I really want to see what they’ve got. I told them ‘I’m going to throw you in the ocean without a life preserver — you’re on your own.’
“I have every confidence in the world in them doing very well. Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar will probably be played in the afternoon foursomes.”

European captain Paul McGinley was also keen to blood his local new boy early.
“We’ve got Stephen Gallacher out there with a guy who’s going to enjoy the atmosphere that Stephen is going to have,” he said.
“The Scottish crowd are going to be vociferous and we all know who likes to rise to the occasion. Ian is looking forward to that role.”

Each captain introduced his team, then revealed the fourball lineups, on stage in front of a crowd cranked up by big-screen highlights of previous classic Ryder Cup moments.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, set to stand down after losing last week’s vote on independence, was in happier mood as he welcomed the Americans to Gleneagles as Scotland hosts the competition for only the second time in its 40 editions.

There were particularly loud cheers for Gallacher, in on a wildcard selection, Poulter, who beat his chest in response, and ever popular Spaniard Garcia.
Mickelson was given a great ovation as were the gun-slinging Watson and Fowler.

The first match tees off at 06.35 GMT, with the others following at 15-minute intervals.

Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson v Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson
Thomas Bjorn and Martin Kaymer v Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker
Stephen Gallacher and Ian Poulter v Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed
Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy v Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson

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