MEDINAH, Ill. — Davis Love III sent out his hottest player. Jose Maria Olazabal went with his strongest teams. The Ryder Cup captains had the same objectives Thursday when they announced their teams for the opening sessions at Medinah.
Win points, the sooner the better.
"We have to go for it," Olazabal said. "I know we are playing away. The crowds are going to be on their side. They set up the course to their liking. At the end of the day, you have to make a bunch of birdies out there to win points. So just send the best players out there and see if they can perform well, and manage to win those points."
The foursomes lineup would seem to favor Europe.
Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy, the best player in golf, will lead off Friday morning against Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker, who is coming off a sterling four weeks that led to his Tour Championship win five days ago and the FedEx Cup title.
Snedeker describes himself as "jumpy," and Love found it important to get his fastest player out early.
"We wanted to get Brandt going," Love said.
In doing so, he became the third straight American captain to send out a Ryder Cup rookie in the leadoff match. Dustin Johnson was in the opening match at Wales, and Anthony Kim went out first at Valhalla. Both of them played with Phil Mickelson.
Mickelson is in the second game with Keegan Bradley, and they face the tough task of trying to be the first team to beat Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia, who are 4-0 in foursomes. Garcia has never lost in alternate shot. His record is 8-0-1.
"They are two very good players and it will be a tough match, but they are also two players that sometimes might not always hit it straight," Garcia said. "But we are just going to focus on our own games and hopefully we can win the point for Europe."
Bradley referred to Garcia and Donald as "legends in the Ryder Cup."
It will be the first time since 1995 that the Americans did not have either Mickelson or Tiger Woods in the leadoff match. Woods is the anchor this time with Steve Stricker, with whom he has a 6-2 record in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup. Their last two outings, however, ended badly — a 6-and-5 loss to Donald and Lee Westwood at Wales in 2010, and a record 7-and-6 loss to Adam Scott and K.J. Choi in the Presidents Cup last November.
Woods and Stricker will play Ian Poulter and Justin Rose. Poulter is 8-3 in the Ryder Cup, though two of those losses were to Woods in team matches. Both of those matches were fourballs, where Woods has a stronger record.
Woods and Rose share the same swing coach in Sean Foley.
"There are no easy games in the Ryder Cup, but from a crowd perspective, if we do manage to go out there and get a point, it could be one of those huge swing-and-momentum moments," Rose said. "I think we go into this game with nothing to lose."
In the third slot are Westwood and Francesco Molinari against Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner, the third American rookie who will be in the opening session.
Both captains said all week the tough part would be figuring out who to leave out — every player at Medinah is inside the top 35 in the world. Olazabal elected to bench Paul Lawrie, Martin Kaymer, Peter Hanson and Nicolas Colsaerts, the only rookie on Europe's side. Love sat out the pairing of Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson, and Johnson and Matt Kuchar.
"We have four on the bench. We're going to have to get them in the game," Love said.
Love said he would see how the matches progressed Friday morning before deciding on his next move for fouballs in the afternoon, though he sounded resolved to stick with the plan he has mapped out for the Americans, who have lost six of the last eight times in the Ryder Cup. And the North Carolina alum even mentioned a basketball coaching great.
"Dean Smith just ran his offense and he ran it and he ran it and he ran it until the game was over; and I think that's what we are going to do," Love said. "We have got a plan, we have some great players and we are just going to let them play until we run out of holes. I think everybody around me seems to feel like we have a pretty good plan."