Prediction time! Saturday fourball matches analyzed, and why Tiger is about to win his first point

September 28, 2018
Tiger Woods, Patrick Reed, Friday fourballs, 2018 Ryder Cup

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France — One day is in the books, and after the U.S. enjoyed a dominant morning session, Europe flipped the script in afternoon foursomes, running away with all four matches to take a 5-3 lead into Saturday. Next up: another round of fourballs. The U.S. won this session 3-1 on Friday and had a shot at a 4-0 sweep of their own. So it’s no surprise to see Captain Jim Furyk go with the same pairings, but in a slightly different order. For Europe, Captain Thomas Bjorn has dialed up two new combinations. Meanwhile, our crystal ball has also been recalibrated after going 1-3 in our predictions Friday morning. There’s nowhere to go but up. (Or slightly lower!) Here’s how we see the next batch of matches playing out.

MATCH ONE: Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau vs. Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy

Koepka and Finau opened the Ryder Cup by flipping their match against Justin Rose and Jon Rahm over the final few holes to steal a full point. No surprise to see Furyk toss them back out first. McIlroy was a mess Friday morning — he was the only player in the session who failed to make a birdie — but he got his mojo back while paired with Ian Poulter in the afternoon. Sergio will be Rory’s third partner in three sessions. Rory can’t play worse that he did Friday morning, and Sergio also carries some momentum after rolling to a win in foursomes. Finau and Koepka’s luck runs out.

PREDICTION: Europe wins, 2 and 1

MATCH TWO: Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson vs. Paul Casey and Tyrrell Hatton

Casey and Hatton withstood an early Jordan Spieth buzzsaw Friday morning to take their match to the 18th before falling short. Fowler and DJ alternated birdies on the back nine and have to feel good about rekindling their successful pairing. It’s tough to bet against that combo of DJ’s power and Rickie’s iron game in this format – both guys can ring up birdies in a hurry.

PREDICTION: U.S. wins, 4 and 3

MATCH THREE: Patrick Reed and Tiger Woods vs. Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari

The only rematch from the opening session, but this time it’s third rather than the anchor spot. Fleetwood and Molinari clicked on the back nine Friday morning and kept right on humming through the afternoon for a 2-0 day. Reed hit a couple of water balls Friday morning and never approached the shotmaking and clutch putting he’s displayed in his previous two Cups. Woods scratched out a nice front nine Friday morning, but looked tired and stiff on the back. He’s now 5-9 lifetime in fourballs. Does he have enough left to finish off a match? Can Reed raise his game to a Hazeltine level? Those are two tough questions … but Fleetwood and Molinari are trying to win three in a row, which is tough to do. It’s time for Captain America to join this Ryder Cup.

PREDICTION: U.S. wins, 3 and 1

MATCH FOUR: Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas vs. Ian Poulter and Jon Rahm

The anchor match should be the marquee clash of the morning. Spieth found his putting stroke Friday morning while making five birdies in his first seven holes, and Thomas came through on the back nine to earn the team a point. (And then they went back out and struggled Friday afternoon.) Rahm and Poulter will bring the fire, and while it’s a new pairing, it’s easy to see how it could work. Rahm only made one birdie Friday morning, but he’s third on the PGA Tour in birdies per round. He’s due. No matter what happens, this one should be fun.

PREDICTION: U.S. wins, 2 and 1