GLENEAGLES, Scotland — There is only one smart way to play the Sunday singles lineup pairings game in the Ryder Cup and that’s to win as many points as you can as soon as you can.
Captains Tom Watson and Paul McGinley followed that formula with their pairings for Sunday’s games. With the United States trailing Europe, 10-6, the Americans need to win matches early to get back on the game and apply pressure, the way the Europeans did two years ago when they rallied from a 10-6 deficit in singles to win at Medinah.
McGinley’s team, likewise, knows it’s imperative to close the door as early as possible because if the Americans go on a run early, the pressure on the players in the later matches increases exponentially.
So both captains positioned most of their hottest players at the top of the lineup.
Here’s how it looks:
Match 1 Jordan Spieth, U.S., vs Graeme McDowell, Europe
The hottest hands for the Americans were the rookie duo, Spieth and Reed, so they get first call. McDowell is fresh after playing only two matches while Spieth is one of seven Americans who played two matches on Saturday. They’re both terrific putters and G-Mac is one of the straightest drivers in golf on a course with punishing rough. He should win but Spieth is a gamer who can’t afford not to win. The pick: U.S.
Match 2 Patrick Reed, U.S., vs. Henrik Stenson, Europe
The Swede got a rest Saturday afternoon while Reed had to grind through two matches. Stenson is one tough customer and we learned this week that Reed is, too. The pick: Europe.
Match 3 Rickie Fowler, U.S., vs. Rory McIlroy, Europe
Welcome to your future, golf fans, as two of golf’s best known players square off again, fresh off the PGA Championship in Louisville. McIlroy didn’t play his best this week but came on strong Saturday afternoon while Fowler played four grueling matches and is still looking for his putting stroke. The pick: Europe.
Match 4 Hunter Mahan, U.S., vs. Justin Rose, Europe
Rose was the man of the week for Europe and he finally wilted in that fourth straight match. Mahan looks like one of the world’s best players when he’s on and he doesn’t have a choice here — he has to be on. The pick: U.S.
Match 5 Phil Mickelson, U.S., vs. Stephen Gallacher, Europe
It’s a Hall-of-Famer against a 39-year-old Ryder Cup rookie who got benched after a dismal debut Friday morning. Gallacher is a Scot who grew up in the area and has a lot of local knowledge and will have intense support. Mickelson will have his hands full. The pick: U.S.
Match 6 Bubba Watson, U.S., vs. Martin Kaymer, Europe
Kaymer didn’t play his best this week, although he found his groove at times. Watson played well in a birdie-fest Saturday morning and he is America’s No. 1 guy. The pick: U.S.
Match 7 Matt Kuchar, U.S., vs. Thomas Bjorn, Europe
Bjorn is one of the world’s best chippers and Kuchar is right behind him. Who’s going to have their tee-to-green game up to speed on Sunday? The pick: Europe.
Match 8 Jim Furyk, U.S., vs. Sergio Garcia, Europe
Wow, two cagey veterans get to go at it. Sergio’s game has been a bit off. He’s usually a pretty straight driver but he’s spent too much time in the rough. Furyk has played pretty well and he’s never fun to face in singles. The pick: U.S.
Match 9 Webb Simpson, U.S., vs. Ian Poulter, Europe
Simpson had only one match to show his stuff and he didn’t fare well in Friday’s cold, gusty winds. Poulter’s game is off, too, but he found his chipping and putting groove on Saturday. Simpson has had a few days to tinker but Poulter’s putting could be the difference. The pick: Europe.
Match 10 Keegan Bradley, U.S., vs. Jamie Donaldson, Europe
Donaldson had the perfect partner in Westwood, a future Hall-of-Famer and a premiere ball-striker. Bradley is a closer and he’ll be giving putts, and Donaldson, his evil-eye treatment. The pick: U.S.
Match 11 Jimmy Walker, U.S., vs. Lee Westwood, Europe
This is a ballstriker’s course, which is an edge to Westwood, but match play is also about putting, which is an edge for Walker. Can the American recover from four exhausting matches? Westwood is in his 40s and he played twice Saturday, too. The pick: U.S.
Match 12 Zach Johnson, U.S., vs. Victor Dubuisson, Europe
The American is always underrated because he’s not a big hitter but he is dangerous with a wedge or putter or short iron. Dubuisson has the whole package — power, scrambling, putting — and is a star in the making. Dubuisson played superbly the first two days. The pick: Europe.
Final score Europe 16, U.S. 12