Rahm and Garcia lead out Europe's Ryder Cup defence against Thomas and Spieth

Friday's foursomes get the delayed biennial tournament under way at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin

World No 1 Jon Rahm and fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia will spearhead Europe's Ryder Cup defence after captain Padraig Harrington selected the pair for Friday's opening foursomes to face Americans Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth.

In a clear indication Europe will try to grab the early momentum, Harrington turned to two of his big guns in US Open champion Rahm and Garcia, the record Ryder Cup points scorer, to play world No 6 Thomas and a resurgent Spieth, who is once again showing the form that won him three major titles.

"The team that goes out there and gets a lead will say, momentum is everything, and the team that doesn't will have to find another way," said Harrington. "So in a perfect world, you would like to go out there and win the session, win it well and lead from the front and keep going."

Friday's matches at the Whistling Straits course in Wisconsin will mark the end of a long wait for the 43rd Ryder Cup, which has been delayed a year by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The second match out will pit the US partnership of former world No 1 Dustin Johnson and Open champion Collin Morikawa against England's Paul Casey and Ryder Cup debutant Viktor Hovland, the first player from Norway to compete in the tournament.

The English pairing of Lee Westwood, playing in a record- equalling 11th Ryder Cup, and Matt Fitzpatrick will take on big-hitting American Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger.

The last match of the first session could be the most explosive with the pairing of Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy and the "Postman" Ian Poulter taking on two Americans, Olympic gold medallist Xander Schauffele and the in-form Patrick Cantlay, coming off a win at the Tour championship.

"It's almost been a decade that Poults and I have been playing in this thing, all the way back to 2012," said McIlroy. "We've put points on the board for Europe which is really important but we've also had a lot of fun doing it.

"So we are going to go out there this week and enjoy ourselves and play our absolute hearts out."

Harrington said he had thought of putting Rahm and Garcia together for some time and it was something the two Spaniards wanted.

The duo were almost instantly dubbed the new "Spanish Armada" following on in the Ryder Cup from the legendary pairing of former greats Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal.

"It's a big honour," said Rahm. "It means the captain has faith in me and who I'm partnered with. Spanish legacy is deep in the Ryder Cup and I'm hoping we can start a new tradition."

While Rahm and Garcia are a new partnership, US captain Steve Stricker stuck with some pairings that have had success in the past.

Spieth and Thomas played together at the 2018 Ryder Cup in Paris and went 3-1, while Cantlay and Schauffele were teamed together at the 2019 Presidents Cup and had a 2-2 record.

"I feel great about our pairings," Stricker said. "Some teams that have played together over the years, whether in Ryder Cups or some Presidents Cups, so we wouldn't put them out there if we didn't feel good about them, let me just put it that way."

Updated: September 24th 2021, 8:03 AM
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