With half of his side made up of rookies, Darren Clarke’s pairings over the first two days of the 2016 Ryder Cup are going to be crucial for Europe.
As part of his preparation, the Northern Irishman will have no doubt learned from the errors of Mark James’ ways in 1999, the last time the European team travelled across the pond with as many newbies in tow.
Back then, James elected to lean heavily on his senior men for the foursomes and four-balls on both the Friday and Saturday.
Three of the Englishman’s collection of newcomers didn’t even play a match until the Sunday singles. It proved a costly strategy as the trio – Andrew Coltart, Jarmo Sandelin and Jean van de Velde – all lost in a 14½-13½ USA victory.
Clarke is unlikely to follow that example at Hazeltine this week, with a raft of experienced players like Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy around to partner the rooks.
Finding winning partnerships remains the 2011 Open champion’s priority though, which means keeping two of his veterans together is a must in Minnesota.
Two years ago at Gleneagles, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson were unbeatable. The pair won all three of their matches together to become the first European duo since Sandy Lyle and Bernhard Langer in 1987 to record a 100 per cent record in at least three matches together.
Both men will be seen as key cogs in the mission to retain the Ryder Cup trophy. Harnessing their undoubted power as a partnership should therefore be preferred over the temptation to hand them a tutoring role.
Should both men come close to claiming that individual prize, then the team as a whole stand a great chance of collective success, at odds of 7/4.
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