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‘The importance of the first session is decided after the result’ – Harrington plays strong hand to open

Team Europe captain Padraig Harrington and Team USA captain Steve Stricker shake hands as host Rob Riggle looks on during the opening ceremony REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Team Europe captain Padraig Harrington and Team USA captain Steve Stricker shake hands as host Rob Riggle looks on during the opening ceremony REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Brian Keogh in Wisconsin

Losing the first session has meant little statistically over the past 10 Ryder Cups but Pádraig Harrington’s European charges are clearly gunning to emerge unscathed from today’s opening foursomes at Whistling Straits.

The side that’s won the opening session has won just three Ryder Cups since 1999. But given the strength of the US team, Harrington opted for experience and reserved Shane Lowry, Tommy Fleetwood, Bernd Wiesberger and Tyrrell Hatton for the fourballs as he looks to spread his strength and get the most out of his team over all three days.

The Dubliner has topped and tailed his line up with two heavy hitting pairings he said he had planned “for months” with the new Spanish Armada of Sergio Garcia and world No 1 Jon Rahm taking on US golden boys Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth.

Rory McIlroy is reserved for the anchor match, partnering Ian Poulter rather than Lowry against a couple of super rookies in PGA Tour Player of the Year, Patrick Cantlay and Olympic champion Xander Schauffele.

With Paul Casey and Viktor Hovland pitted against Dustin Johnson and Open champion Collin Morikawa, Europe have their work cut out in the third match with veteran Lee Westwood partnering Matthew Fitzpatrick, a player less suited to fourballs, against pals Brooks Koepka and Patrick Berger.

“The first session, the importance of it is decided after the result,” Harrington argued. “That's the way it goes. You know, 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.

“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. We don't get that choice. You've got to go out and earn it."

Harrington’s foursomes pairings played just once together over the first three days, which is a first for a Ryder Cup captain.

But he argued that he was simply trying to stop them getting fed up with the sight of each other before the opening day.

"We knew our partnerships well in advance and you don't want to get bored playing with a guy," Harrington said. "They did have a trial at foursomes but I just did not want them to overdo it.

“I know I'm probably the first captain to do it like that, but certainly every captain has to bring their own personal experience, and from my personal experience, you just want to turn up on Friday and still have that freshness and enthusiasm and excitement and little bit of intrigue.

“We would have been aware that J.T. and Jordan were going first, obviously, so we were obviously going to lead ourselves with a strong partnership with Jon and Sergio; the whole world will be watching that one.

“After that, we got Viktor Hovland, rookie, what a great player, what a great guy. Equally matched up with Paul Casey, strong player over the years.

“Obviously Lee and Matt, both from the same town at home. Two strong players. Matt himself, great match player, playing great. And Lee, a stalwart beside him with the experience.

“And obviously everybody would have predicted the last one. I assume that one wasn't too hard. Rory and Ian have played well in the past. Probably going up against their new young guns, Patrick and Xander look like a partnership that they may be looking for for the future going against an established partnership of ours.”

US captain Steve Stricker was also pleased with the draw.

“I feel great about our pairings,” he said. “You know, 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.

“So we are extremely excited about how these guys are playing, and the order of which they are going out.”

As for the European order, Stricker said he didn’t waste time trying to work out what Europe would do.

“I didn't even try to anticipate,” he said. “We talked occasionally about maybe who they are going to put out, but it doesn't matter, really. They are all such great players.”

He added: “So we have an idea that Rory and Rahm would probably go 1 and 4, and that's pretty much all we knew, or really thought about.”

Ryder Cup Day One

Foursomes (Irish time)

13:05 Jon Rahm & Sergio Garcia v Justin Thomas & Jordan Spieth;

13:21 Paul Casey & Viktor Hovland v Dustin Johnson & Collin Morikawa

13:37 Lee Westwood & Matt Fitzpatrick v Brooks Koepka & Daniel Berger

13:43 Rory McIlroy & Ian Poulter v Patrick Cantlay & Xander Schauffele

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