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Thursday, September 27, 2018

Some Thoughts on Team USA's Potential Pairings

My best guesses on Team Europe's pairings would be less than useful. Given that I did pretty well guessing Furyk's picks -- because they were pretty clear to a USA fan -- I'm going to venture some thoughts on our pairings as well.

Some of Team USA

There has been a lot of buzz because the Spieth/Reed pairing hasn't been mentioned much. I suspect they may play some fourball together, but I can see a real reason not to pair them in foursomes. Given how thick the rough is, having Spieth try to play Reed's sometimes wild tee ball with a bad wrist sounds disastrous to me. You need to go as easy on Spieth's wrist as possible -- and Thomas's wrist as well.

Coupled with Spieth's continued putting problems, a Spieth/Reed foursome pairing just seems like a bad idea to me.

While there's been some naysaying about a Woods/Reed foursome pairing -- the rumors being spawned by Reed practicing with a Bridgestone ball -- I don't think this is such a farfetched idea. We know Reed idolizes Tiger, what with wearing the same Sunday outfit and all, and we know he can take the heat of the pairing. But many have forgotten how Tiger helped Reed plan out his back nine at the Gleneagles Ryder Cup. I remember how excited Reed was when he told the media about it.

There's a connection between the two there, and I can see Furyk making use of it. I don't think he'd have had Reed working with Tiger's ball otherwise.

And Reed proved he can hit fairways with that little "whirlybird" cut that he used to win the Masters. While I don't think you want to risk Spieth's wrist on an occasional miss, I don't think it'll be a problem for Tiger. And just imagine the energy in that grouping!

I suspect Furyk will try to play everybody at least once on Friday, and I think there are a number of logical pairings that he can use. Many of these players have teamed up before (with varying amounts of success, and perhaps in only one format) while others are new.
  • Woods/DeChambeau
  • Woods/Reed
  • Woods/Thomas
  • Woods/Fowler
  • Simpson/Watson
  • Simpson/Finau
  • Fowler/Watson
  • Fowler/Mickelson
  • Fowler/Johnson
  • Johnson/Mickelson
  • Johnson/Simpson
  • Johnson/Thomas
  • Johnson/Koepka
  • Johnson/Finau
  • Finau/Mickelson
  • Spieth/Thomas
  • Spieth/Johnson
  • Spieth/Reed
I think it's been overlooked how many players Rickie Fowler could be profitably paired with. Rickie routinely plays money games with Tiger, Phil, DJ, Jordan, Justin and Bubba. And being a veteran, he could also be teamed with Tony, perhaps with similar results as he would get with DJ or JT. I won't be surprised to see Furyk use Rickie in much the same way as Tiger.

On an individual basis, I look for Tiger, Rickie and Webb to be standouts this week, and I think DJ, Tony, Bryson and Brooks have something to prove -- which just might motivate them to do something special. Conversely, I'm a bit nervous about Jordan and JT's wrists (I still think JT's wrist affected his play in the Tour Championship), and I have mixed emotions about Phil and Patrick. In match play, where even making a triple is only one hole lost, Phil and Patrick are so explosive that they can get away with a lot. Still, both have been a bit erratic in the last half of the season.

As for the rumors of a Tiger/Phil pairing... I really do think they would like to try one match, just to prove they have become true team players and can work together ON the course as well as they have OFF the course. But the pairing simply doesn't make sense, especially if both play well. Why create a single good team when you could pair them with younger players and field double the firepower?

We'll find out early today -- at least, early here in the Southeastern US -- what the morning fourball pairings will be. With so many potential pairings, it's a bit of a gamble trying to guess which individuals will be in the first session. It's probably easier to guess who will sit.
  • Bubba Watson
  • Jordan Spieth
  • Webb Simpson
  • Justin Thomas
I know that goes against popular belief, but I'm guessing these four will make up two of the afternoon foursomes (Watson/Simpson and Spieth/Thomas). I'd rest Bubba because he's under the weather, Spieth and Thomas because of their wrists, and Webb because he'll partner Bubba. I'd also want to give Webb a chance to ease into the matches rather than go out in the first session.

So that's my feeling about the first matches. Let's see how I do!

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