Ryder Cup captains keeping mum on pairing plans

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·2-min read
Europe's Viktor Hovland plays a shot from a bunker during a practice round prior to the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin (AFP/Warren Little)
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Ryder Cup newcomer Viktor Hovland waxed enthusiastic Tuesday on the possibility of partnering with Rory McIlroy, but European captain Padraig Harrington -- like US counterpart Steve Stricker -- remained cagey on his precise pairing plans.

Hovland, 24, said he thought he'd mesh well with McIlroy, the four-time major winner who will be playing in his sixth Ryder Cup when Europe launches the defense of the title won in France in 2018.

"I think we've got a lot of the same strengths and kind of personality-wise we think a lot alike," Hovland said. "I've grown up in Europe. We play tons of match play and we play tons of foursomes in miscellaneous events.

"I have some experience doing that, and I very much like it. I like to compete with someone and be on a team."

Hovland practiced on Tuesday alongside veterans McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood at Whistling Straits, where the 43rd Ryder Cup tees off on Friday.

Whether that was an indicator of likely pairings for Friday's foursomes and fourball matches remains to be seen, even if Harrington has a pretty good idea of his plans.

"I wouldn't think a lot is changing in my head and my vice captains' head between now and Friday, no," Harrington said, although the big reveal won't come until Thursday evening, when the opening ceremony arrives and the pairings for Friday are announced.

Foursomes can be the trickiest teams to put together. But US captain Steve Stricker has a couple of proven combinations in the alternate-shot format should he choose to use them.

Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth beat McIlroy and Ian Poulter 4 & 3 in foursomes three years ago in Paris, where the US duo were 3-1 together overall.

Ryder Cup rookies Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele won both of their foursomes matches at the 2019 Presidents Cup in Australia.

"I think we always tend to try to look for guys with similar game styles or game styles that would complement the other player," Stricker said. "Good putting always is a big key I think in alternate-shot."

Stricker said he came into the week "pretty set in my mind" after doing his homework on his players, talking to them and to his vice captains.

"You've always got to be prepared for the what-ifs. So that's what we're doing, as well," he said. "But, yeah, we've had a pretty good game plan from a while back, and we're putting that into play."

As to what that might mean in terms of actual pairings, Stricker said: "I guess you're going to have to tune in on Friday to watch."

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