Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker are at opposite ends of the Ryder Cup spectrum; but they couldn't be more similar in their efforts for the U.S. at the annual event, and their participation will be key to their team picking up the 2012 Ryder Cup.
After the opening ceremonies were finished on Thursday afternoon, captains Davis Love III and José María Olazábal selected their eight golfers who will represent their respective teams on Friday morning's opening foursomes at Medinah Country Club.
Among them were Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker. Lee Westwood and Fransesco Molinari pair up for Europe.
But it's Snedeker and Furyk taking on Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell that will be the matchup of the day, and key to everything the U.S. does this weekend.
Earlier this month Furyk called McIlroy a "marked man" at the Ryder Cup—the No. 1 golfer in the world has a big target on his back.
As fate would have it, Furyk will have the first crack at putting the first bulls eye in McIlroy's target.
Europe and Olazábal went for the big knockout in their first matchup, sending the No. 1 golfer to set the tone off right against the Americans.
As Gary Williams of the Golf Channel puts it, Europe is looking for the big punch in the first round, while the Americans are saving their secret weapon for the end.
Europe throws haymaker with first duo of McIlroy/McDowell vs. Furyk/Snedeker. Tiger/Stricker anchor vs. Poults/Rose.— Gary Williams (@garywilliamsGC) September 27, 2012
But for all the talk about Furyk's last stand and the buddies, McIlroy and McDowell, it will be Snedeker who holds the biggest key for this pairing.
The red-hot American is coming off a Tour Championship, a FedEx Cup and has what most appear to think is the best putter on the planet right now. It's no wonder Furyk made him a captain's selection, and proceeded to pit him against the man he knocked off for the FedEx Cup and the Tour Championship, McIlroy.
He outduled the European on Sunday at the Tour Championship, and he did it behind his top-ranked one-putt percentage. He's a true example of riding the wave, but he's also an up-and-comer on the golf circuit.
Quite frankly, without that emotional swing in the first match, I don't think the U.S. will be able to overcome this strong Europe squad.
It seems like just yesterday that the U.S., with Tiger Woods and Co., were running away with these things. But Europe has more talent on paper—and crucially more experience.
Furyk—who has an 8-15-4 record at the Ryder Cup—and Snedeker, the rookie, are the two most important people for the U.S. in their pursuit to keep the title in the States.
How will Snedeker respond when he's on the big stage? Rookies aren't expected to be "the guy", especially with a team that feature Woods. But he's one of the pivotal guys in the entire event, and pairing him with Furyk was a bold move by Davis.
Furyk will be expected to do what he's struggled to do in Ryder Cups of old. His record isn't great, and he's struggled some in recent years.
But two of the hottest golfers in the world will need all of that magic to beat McDowell and McIlroy, who will be favored to win on almost every format.
It's going to be a major upset, should the Americans pull it off. But it's one that's doable, and it's one that Davis Love III needs to set the tone for a good start on Friday morning and throughout the rest of the Ryder Cup weekend.