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U.S. rookie to open vs. Europe's best

MEDINAH, Ill. — Brandt Snedeker won't wait long to get his first taste of the Ryder Cup.

After a week of practice and pomp, the event begins this morning at Medinah with Snedeker and Jim Furyk in the opening foursomes match for the U.S. team against Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy, the No. 1 player in the world. Europe is the defending champion.

"We wanted to get Brandt going," U.S. captain Davis Love said.

European captain Jose Maria Olazabal went for strength at the top in a Ryder Cup where every player looks strong. McIlroy and McDowell are best friends and major champions from Northern Ireland. They were 1-1-1 together at Wales two years ago.

Olazabal put his strongest team out second — Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia, who are 4-0 in foursomes. They go up against Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, one of three rookies that Love is playing in the opening session.

It's the first time since 1995 that neither Mickelson nor Tiger Woods was in the leadoff match. Woods is the anchor for the opening sessions, back with Steve Stricker to take on Ian Poulter and Justin Rose.

Poulter is 8-3 in the Cup, though two of those losses involved Woods. Poulter and Ross Fisher lost to Woods and Stricker at Wales in 2010, and Poulter and Darren Clarke lost to Woods and Chris Riley in 2004 at Oakland Hills.

The third match features Cup rookie Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson against Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari, an alternate-shot match among four players who tend to keep the ball in play off the tee. Then again, there's hardly any rough at Medinah. The emphasis is on power and putting.

Both captains said the tough part would be figuring out who to leave out. Olazabal elected to bench Paul Lawrie, Martin Kaymer, Peter Hanson and Nicolas Colsaerts. Love sat out the pairing of Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson, and Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar.

R-e-s-p-e-c-t: Europe has been trying to win over the American crowd all week during practice rounds, with players going out of their way to sign autographs and mingle with fans. And it helps that one of their own, Donald, actually lives in Chicago.

Leaving nothing to chance, Olazabal made one last plea to be loud but respectful. "Chicago is a passionate city," he said. "We know you will be as strong in support for your team. But I believe you will honor the courtesy of sportsmanship that is the bedrock of Ryder Cup."

Olazabal was in the decisive match at Brookline in 1999 against Justin Leonard. All square on the 17th, with the Americans one-half point away from completing the biggest comeback in Cup history, Leonard rammed in a 45-foot birdie putt. Players and wives charged across the green to celebrate, forgetting that the Spaniard had a 25-foot putt to halve the hole.

Olazabal missed, and the Americans won, though the celebration stained the matches.

Love also preached sportsmanship: "These matches are not life and death. Golf has to be played with a certain spirit of graciousness or it's not golf at all."

Today's tee times

8:20 a.m. —Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, Europe, vs. Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker, United States

8:35 a.m. — Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia, Europe, vs. Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, United States

8:50 a.m. — Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari, Europe, vs. Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson, United States

9:05 a.m. — Ian Poulter and Justin Rose, Europe, vs. Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker, United States

>>Fast facts

U.S. vs Europe

Day 1 of the Ryder Cup, Medinah (Ill.) Country Club

TV today: 8 a.m. ESPN

Today's format: Foursomes (alternate shot) in morning, four-ball (better ball) in afternoon

Weather: Sunny, mid 50s to high 60s, light wind

U.S. rookie to open vs. Europe's best 09/27/12 [Last modified: Thursday, September 27, 2012 10:05pm]
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