June 13, 2024

GUIDONIA MONTECELIO, Italy — Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas have been one of the most reliable tandems for the United States team in recent Ryder Cups, but they’ll be on the sideline Friday morning for the opening session at Marco Simone Golf Club.

U.S. team captain Zach Johnson elected to sit Spieth and Thomas, despite their 8-2-0 record when playing together in international events. Thomas struggled with his form throughout the PGA Tour season and missed the FedEx Cup playoffs for the first time in his career. He needed one of Johnson’s six captain’s picks to make the team for the third time.

World No. 1 golfer Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns will take on Spain’s Jon Rahm and England’s Tyrrell Hatton in the first foursomes (alternate shot) match. Scheffler has won six times on the PGA Tour the past two seasons, but struggled mightily with his putting in 2023. Burns ranked fourth on tour in total putting and seventh in one-putt percentage (43.83%).

“Obviously, Scottie and I have played a lot of golf together, and we’re excited to team up and try to go out there and get the first point for our team,” Burns said.

Thomas has been one of the American team’s best players in international events and has a 6-2-1 record in the Ryder Cup. Spieth has an 8-7-3 record in the biennial international event.

“The gist of it is we’ve got 12 guys,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately, I can’t play all 12 each session. So at some point, somebody’s got to sit. It’s a golf course that demands a lot out of you physically.

“I mean, I think it’s an ideal situation where you don’t necessarily want to play everybody [for] all five sessions. I’m not saying that’s what we’re going to do, but you’re taking everything into account. Not only that, but the eight guys I have down on paper are the ones that we feel best put us in the position to get off to a great start obviously.”

Despite Thomas’ struggles this season, Johnson insisted his decision wasn’t about the current form of either player.

“There’s a lot of things that I’d like to keep internal there,” Johnson said. “At the same time, I have the utmost confidence in these eight and the utmost confidence in Jordan and Justin. I know we’re talking about a great tandem, but it’s a situation where it’s not about their form. They’re playing great.”

Open Championship winner Brian Harman and six-time PGA Tour winner Max Homa, a pair of Ryder Cup rookies, will face Norway’s Viktor Hovland and former Texas Tech star Ludvig Aberg in the second match. Hovland won twice during the FedEx Cup playoffs, including the Tour Championship, and is ranked fourth in the world. Aberg will also be playing in his first Ryder Cup.

In the third match, Ryder Cup veteran Rickie Fowler and two-time major winner Collin Morikawa will play Ireland’s Shane Lowry and Austria’s Sepp Straka, another European first-timer. Fowler is making his fifth Ryder Cup appearance and first since 2018. He’ll try to improve his 3-7-5 record in the event, which includes a 1-3-2 mark in foursomes.

One of the American team’s most reliable pairings, Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele, will play in the final match and will face Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and England’s Tommy Fleetwood. Cantlay and Schauffele are a combined 5-0 in foursomes matches in their past three appearances in international team events, two Presidents Cup and one Ryder Cup.

Cantlay and Schauffele also set a tournament record for foursomes with a 9-under 63 at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in April. They won that team event in 2022.

McIlroy, the No. 2 golfer in the world, has been the heart and soul of the European team for the past few years. He broke down in tears during the American team’s 19-9 victory at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin in September 2021 after winning only one of four potential points. It was the U.S. team’s largest margin of victory in the event.

As captain of the home team, Europe’s Luke Donald is gambling by starting with foursomes for the first time since 1993, which was the last time the Americans won a Ryder Cup outside of the United States. The U.S. team hasn’t won on foreign soil since a 15-13 victory at the Belfry in Warwickshire, England.

The U.S. team has not won the foursomes on European soil since 2002. It is 4-4-2 in the past 10 foursomes sessions, dating back to 2012.

The teams will play four four-ball (best ball) matches Friday afternoon.

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