Justin Rose leads Europe’s bid to lift Ryder Cup

Team Europe's Rory McIlroy during preview day four of the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National, Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines
Team Europe's Rory McIlroy during preview day four of the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National, Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines

Justin Rose was handed the task of leading Europe’s bid to win the Ryder Cup for the third contest in succession as Ian Poulter was left out of the opening session in Paris.

Rose, who won £7.6million on Sunday by claiming the FedEx Cup title in Atlanta, partnered Henrik Stenson in the first match at Gleneagles in 2014 and at Hazeltine two years ago.

But the Olympic champion was handed a new partner in Spain’s Jon Rahm for Friday’s opening fourballs match at Le Golf National as Europe look to regain the trophy and maintain an unbeaten record on home soil which stretches back to 1993.

Rose and Rahm will take on three-time major winner Brooks Koepka and wild card Tony Finau, with Rory McIlroy and Thorbjorn Olesen facing world number one Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler in match two.

The all-English pairing of Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton then have the daunting task of taking on Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, with Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari having an equally tough task against ‘Captain America’ Patrick Reed and a rejuvenated Tiger Woods.

Woods claimed the Tour Championship on Sunday for his first tournament win since August 2013 and his 80th PGA Tour title.

The 42-year-old languished as low as 1,199 in golf’s world rankings less than a year ago following spinal fusion surgery, but completed a remarkable comeback at East Lake.

Woods has been on the winning side just once in seven previous appearances and has lost 17 of his 33 matches, but there was no place in the opening session for Europe’s Ryder Cup talisman Poulter, who has won 13 points from his 18 matches and was one of captain Thomas Bjorn’s four wild cards.

Bjorn expressed his pride at leading the team during the opening ceremony and although he did not specifically reference Brexit, the Dane appeared to make a pointed reference to the situation.

“This great continent can at times be a fragmented place, but when it comes to the Ryder Cup it’s different. When it comes to the Ryder Cup Europe stands as one,” Bjorn said.

“We will play with passion, we will play with commitment and we will play with pride, but more than anything else this week we will play for that flag.”

And Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen has gone from Bjorn’s buggy driver at Hazeltine to being one of the Ryder Cup captain’s rookies in the space of two years.

The 28-year-old has a close friendship with his fellow Dane and, partly as a result, he was invited to the 2016 event in America where he shadowed Bjorn, then a vice-captain.

It gave him important first-hand experience of what the Ryder Cup is about and means he will not go into the event at Le Golf National totally blind.

“First of all, it’s the toughest job I’ve ever had, for sure. Driving Thomas’s buggy was difficult. He was very demanding, so I was running around,” said Olesen.

“It was a great experience for me, seeing behind the scenes and you realise how tough of a job they actually have to pick the teams.”

Draw and tee-off times for the opening fourballs:

0710 Justin Rose and Jon Rahm v Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau

0725 Rory McIlroy and Thorbjorn Olesen v Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler

0740 Paul Casey and Tyrell Hatton v Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas

0755 Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood v Patrick Reed and Tiger Woods.