Captain may ask Dustin Johnson to lead from the front
Rory McIlroy should have prominent Friday role
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Tiger Woods has been hogging most of the attention in Paris this week and is obviously the main man of the event in the wake of his Tour Championship glory, but American captain Jim Furyk may prefer to take some of the heat off the headline act by playing him low in the Friday-fourballs order.
Woods has been prone to terrible opening drives in big events through the years – and he probably wants as long as possible to warm up his back for a long day of Ryder Cup combat – so the Florida-based phenomenon may tee off last in the opening fourballs.
Bet365 and Betway are betting on who hits the first shots for each team and Dustin Johnson looks a better bet than Woods for the American side.
Furyk will be sending out a strong message to his opponents by pairing Johnson and Brooks Koepka in a fourballs dream team on the first morning. The announcement of the world number one and the world number three in tandem is daunting for Europe, underlining a message that the Americans are keen to convey – that they are significantly superior in terms of world-ranking credentials.
Expect Furyk to deliver that blow in the opening pairing with Johnson and Koepka stepping up first and the more dependable driver of the two getting the first crack. Furyk needs to get Johnson, often a carefree character when it comes to golf, fully engaged with this competition if his team are to succeed. Respecting top-dog status and sending Johnson out first would help that process.
Johnson and Koepka are the names to concentrate on in the USA to-hit-first market, while the European equivalent is arguably a contest between Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose.
McIlroy and Poulter, both hugely confident Ryder Cup performers, could be handed the job of teeing up in the opening fourball for Europe. The alternative for partnering McIlroy may be Rahm – they have been practising together a lot this week.
Rose is the highest-ranked European in the team, has just won the FedEx Cup and is one of the most trustworthy drivers on the planet, so if Thomas Bjorn opts to send Rose and Henrik Stenson out first, Rose will probably take on the pressure-packed opening tee shot.
At the prices – Rose is being given enormous respect by the layers – preference is for a two-pronged attack on McIlroy and Poulter.
D Johnson to hit opening American shot
2pts 15-2 bet365
R McIlroy to hit opening European shot
1pt 5-1 bet365
I Poulter to hit opening European shot
1pt 8-1 bet365, Betway
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