Golf Golf

McIlroy opens with Thomas, Tiger gets Rahm in Ryder Cup singles

Rory McIlroy will look to edge Europe closer to Ryder Cup victory when he takes on Justin Thomas in Sunday’s opening singles © AFP / FRANCK FIFE

Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, France, Sep 29 – Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy will open for leaders Europe against American Justin Thomas in Sunday’s 12 concluding singles matches of the 42nd Ryder Cup as the team captains revealed their lineups Saturday night.

Europe own a 10-6 lead after Saturday’s fourball and foursomes matches at Le Golf National, meaning the hosts need to claim only 4 1/2 points to take the trophy while the United States must capture eight points to keep the Cup.

“At least we have an opportunity tomorrow to do something special,” US captain Jim Furyk said.

The Americans sent out 2017 PGA Championship winner Thomas to set a fast tempo for success, a challenge he will be hard-pressed to complete against McIlroy.

“We’ve got a feisty guy in Justin Thomas leading us off,” Furyk said. “He’s kind of a little sparkplug.”

Among the more exciting attractions of the final day will be 14-time major champion Tiger Woods facing Spain’s Jon Rahm in the fourth match of the afternoon.

After McIlroy and Thomas launch festivities at 12:05 p.m. (1005 GMT), England’s Paul Casey will meet three-time major winner Brooks Koepka with England’s Justin Rose next against reigning Players Championship winner Webb Simpson.

Italy’s Francesco Molinari and England’s Tommy Fleetwood will each attempt to complete a perfect 5-for-5 win effort with a singles triumph, an unprecedented feat for Europeans and achieved by only three Americans, Larry Nelson in 1979 and Arnold Palmer and Gardner Dickinson in 1967.

Fleetwood follows Woods onto the course against US rookie Tony Finau while Molinari, the reigning British Open champion, will tee off in the ninth match against five-time major champion Phil Mickelson.

By that point, if the Americans are still in it, the 48-year-old left-hander playing in his 12th consecutive Ryder Cup could have a key role.

“I hope that our guys get off to a fast start and put him in that position,” Furyk said.

Following Fleetwood will be English talisman Ian Poulter against world number one Dustin Johnson, Dane Thorbjorn Olesen against Jordan Spieth and Spain’s Sergio Garcia against Rickie Fowler.

Closing out the lineup will be England’s Tyrrell Hatton against reigning Masters champion Patrick Reed, Sweden’s Henrik Stenson against two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson and a pair of Ryder Cup rookies, Sweden’s Alex Noren and American Bryson DeChambeau, in the finale.

Reed has struggled mightily this week but retains Furyk’s confidence for a late match that might complete a US miracle rally.

“If we get off to a fast start tomorrow, these matches will come right to that,” Furyk said. “If you look at history, it will come down to those matches, and I’ve got a guy that I can really trust and I believe in.”