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Ryder Cup 2018: Predicting Most Intriguing Potential Pairings

Gill Clark@@gillclarkyFeatured Columnist ISeptember 27, 2018

PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 25:  Tiger Woods of the United States and Phil Mickelson of the United States walk off the 2nd tee ahead of the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National on September 25, 2018 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The 2018 Ryder Cup tees off in Paris on Friday, with Le Golf National hosting the 42nd edition of the competition between teams from Europe and the USA.

USA will be aiming to defend the title they won two years ago at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Minnesota, but they will be well aware they have not won the tournament on foreign soil since 1993.

Europe have only lost the Ryder Cup twice as hosts, and with both teams boasting strong lineups, this year's tournament promises to be yet another thrilling weekend of action.

The pairings will be crucial, so Team Europe captain Thomas Bjorn and Team USA captain Jim Furyk will need to select players who can work together to help bring success to their team.

     

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson

One of the most intriguing pairings would be Tiger Woods teaming up with Phil Mickelson for Team USA.

The two players have a long rivalry but have not been paired together since losing both of their matches together at the 2004 Ryder Cup.

However, their relationship has changed and improved since then. Mickelson feels the two players would be happy to play together in France, per sports journalist Andy Hampson:

Andy Hampson @andyhampson

Mickelson and Woods were out on the course together today. Mickelson says they would "both welcome" the chance play together for real come Friday https://t.co/RMT3dzTWHW

The duo also played a practice round together on Tuesday. Mickelson shared his view of how Woods was playing afterwards:

Phil Mickelson @PhilMickelson

I just played with Tiger today and it is the best I’ve ever seen him swing the club. It is so on plane and solid. I’ll be asking for a shot a side for our Thanksgiving match. I doubt I’ll get it though.

The two players will meet in a $9 million match-play event on Thanksgiving weekend. B/R Live and DirectTV will provide live pay-per-view coverage of the action in the U.S.

However, captain Furyk has played down suggestions the two will play together, per golf writer Jason Sobel:

Jason Sobel @JasonSobelTAN

Jim Furyk on a potential Tiger-Phil pairing: “I won’t say it couldn’t happen, but it’s probably not too likely.”

Woods comes into the Ryder Cup fresh from victory at the season-ending Tour Championship, where he secured his first victory in five years.

All eyes will be on the 42-year-old in France, and whether he could be reunited with Mickelson to form an exciting pairing. 

    

Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed

Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed have become something of a dynamic duo when it comes to playing together for Team USA at the Ryder Cup.

SOUTHAMPTON, NY - JUNE 12:  (L-R) Jordan Spieth of the United States and Patrick Reed of the United States wait together during a practice round prior to the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club on June 12, 2018 in Southampton, New York.  (Photo b
Andrew Redington/Getty Images

They have formed a strong partnership, collecting 2.5 points together at both the 2014 and 2016 Ryder Cups. They also played four matches together at the 2017 Presidents Cup.

It would seem an obvious choice to pair them once again, but there have been suggestions captain Furyk could split them up. The two players have not been grouped together in practice rounds, per Steve DiMeglio at USA Today.

Splitting Spieth and Reed would be a surprise choice by Furyk and could create some interesting pairings. Spieth could play with Justin Thomas instead, with Reed potentially partnering Woods.

        

Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka

Pairing Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka together would create a powerful partnership for Team USA that may take some beating in France.

Koepka has enjoyed a superb year. He successfully defended his U.S. Open title in June and followed that up by claiming the third major of his career at the PGA Championship in August.

Johnson is also coming off the back of a strong season, as highlighted by Justin Ray at the Golf Channel:

Justin Ray @JustinRayGC

Dustin Johnson moves back to no. 1 in the world. He also becomes the 2nd player in PGA Tour history to lead the Tour in par 3, par 4 and par 5 scoring in the same season (Tiger Woods did it twice).

The 34-year-old also feels he could form a fearsome partnership with Koepka, per James Corrigan at the Daily Telegraph.

"I'm definitely looking forward to partnering up with Brooks," he said. "I think we'd make a pretty good team —and I feel bad for anyone who would have to play us."

   

Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose

Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose know each other well and may pair up again in France for Team Europe. 

Both players have bags of experience and played together six times during the 2014 and 2016 Ryder Cups, winning four out of six matches. They also paired up earlier this year at the 2018 Zurich Classic. 

Rose secured the FedEx Cup on Sunday—the end-of-season PGA Tour championship that comes with a $10 million (£7.6 million) bonus. He's the first Englishman to finish at the top of the standings.

     

Tommy Fleetwood and Ian Poulter

Rookie Tommy Fleetwood booked his place on Team Europe after cementing his status as one of Britain's finest players in 2018.

PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 25:  Ian Poulter of Europe jokes with team mate Tommy Fleetwood of Europe during a photocall ahead of the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National on September 25, 2018 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

He could be partnered by the vastly experienced Ian Poulter, who is heading into his sixth Ryder Cup. The 42-year-old missed 2016 due to injury and a loss of form but is a passionate, talismanic figure for the European team.

Per Tom Morgan of The Telegraph, he's won 13 of 18 points at the Ryder Cup and has tasted victory in four of his five appearances. The pairing would provide a good mix of form and experience and help get the best out of Fleetwood on his debut.

    

Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm

Rory McIlroy is a stalwart of the tournament and will become the first player to win four majors and feature in five Ryder Cups before the age of 30 at this year's event, per Ewan Murray at the Irish Times.

The Northern Irishman has been in the same practice group as Rahm in the buildup to Friday's start, which suggests they could feature together, per Ali Stafford at Sky Sports.

Per Matthew Smith for MailOnline, McIlroy has said he would enjoy playing with Rahm: "I'm expecting great things from Jon, I played 18 holes with him in practice and he seems to be playing really well. If we played together that is something I would look forward to.'

Captain Bjorn has likened Rahm to McIlroy:

Sky Sports Golf @SkySportsGolf

No pressure, @JonRahmPGA! 😰 "He's a phenomenal player, and probably the most exciting player to come in the game since Rory." Thomas Bjorn compares Jon Rahm to Rory McIlroy: https://t.co/C63UBBZGdu https://t.co/onqTV8ojn1

Rahm will be making his Ryder Cup debut in France, but he's a powerful player who can be expected to play a key role for Team Europe.

The pairings for the first session will be announced by the two captains on Thursday after the opening ceremony.  

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