U.S. Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker breaks up winning teams for afternoon Four-Balls against Europe; we make our predictions

Who's playing Friday afternoon at the Ryder Cup? Two new teams.

U.S. Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker breaks up winning teams for afternoon Four-Balls against Europe; we make our predictions

HAVEN, Wis. – U.S. Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker said he would not deviate from his script concerning his pairings, no matter what happened Friday morning.

Well, the Americans jumped out to a 3-1 lead as the teams of Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay, Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger, and Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa delivered victories in Foursomes play at Whistling Straits.

Europe’s lone point came in the first match when Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia combined to defeat Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth.

Whether or not Stricker changed up things because of what he saw in the morning is unknown, but he is sending out all 12 of his charges on the first day. And he did break up some groups, including the Schauffele-Cantlay team that devoured the European stalwarts, Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter.

For the Four-Balls session, Johnson will play with Schauffele against Paul Casey and Bernd Wiesberger. In the second match, Bryson DeChambeau and Scottie Scheffler come off the bench to face Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton. In the third match, Tony Finau and Harris English play for the first time against McIlroy and Shane Lowry. In the anchor match, Thomas will partner with Cantlay against Tommy Fleetwood and Viktor Hovland.

Europe captain Padraig Harrington is also playing all 12 of his troops.

Sitting in the afternoon for the U.S. are Spieth, Morikawa, Berger and Koepka. Sitting for the Europeans are Poulter, Garcia, Westwood and Fitzpatrick.

Four-Balls pairings and predictions

Friday, Sept. 24

12:10 p.m. ET

Dustin Johnson and Xander Schauffele (USA) vs. Paul Casey and Bernd Wiesberger (EUR)

Steve DiMeglio: I can’t see myself taking the European duo. Not a rookie (Wiesberger) and Casey was far from sterling in his Foursomes loss. And Schauffele played as well as anyone in the morning and Johnson was pretty much spot on, too. U.S. wins a full point.

Adam Schupak: This feels like an explosive team to lead Team USA in the afternoon session. Casey didn’t impress in morning foursomes and now he has to lead a rookie out in Four-Balls. Too much firepower for the Euros. Point for Team USA.

12:26 p.m. ET

Bryson DeChambeau and Scottie Scheffler (USA) vs. Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton (EUR)

Steve DiMeglio: I can’t see myself not picking DeChambeau and Scheffler, who can overpower this course with their length, especially in the calm conditions. Yes, Rahm came up big in the morning and he is world No. 1, but Hatton hasn’t been at his best in a long time. U.S. with another full point.

Adam Schupak: This should be Must-See-TV. DeChambeau is going to bomb driver and Scheffler will be the surprise in this session. He can make birdies in bunches. Rahm had a hot putter this morning, but will he get enough help from Hatton to keep up? I’m not convinced the Euros will make enough birdies in this matchup. Another point for Team USA.

12:42 p.m. ET

Tony Finau and Harris English (USA) vs. Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry (EUR)

Steve DiMeglio: I can’t see McIlroy playing as poorly as he did in the morning happening again. And I’ve long thought Lowry would take to this course with glee. Europe wins here.

Adam Schupak: McIlroy has to dust himself off after a morning foursomes beat down. I like this partnership with Lowry, who is making his Cup debut. They’ve played a lot of rounds together and have a close friendship. They won’t let Harrington down. Finau and English will need to make birdies in bunches and are capable of doing so, but I see this being a point for Europe.

12:58 p.m. ET

Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay (USA) vs. Tommy Fleetwood and Viktor Hovland (EUR)

Steve DiMeglio: I can’t see a clear winner here. Thomas needs to get his putter working and if he does, and Cantlay plays as well as he has for the last month, look out. But Hovland is a monster and Fleetwood was 4-1-0 in Paris. He’s been off form, as well. I’ll say match ends all-square and the USA ends the first day with a 5½-2½ advantage.

Adam Schupak: This is a quality anchor match. To state the obvious, Thomas has to putt better than he did this morning. He’s a better Four-ball player so I think he and Cantlay, who I’m surprised was separated from Schauffele, can get the job done here. Can Hovland be to Fleetwood what Francesco Molinari was in 2018? I think so, which means I have this match going to 18, but Team USA squeaking out a full point. I’ve got Team USA leading 6-2 after Day One.

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Arkansas' Brooke Matthews, who recently smashed an NCAA scoring record, looks to make more noise in hometown LPGA event

Brooke Matthews grew up with the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. She'll play it days after setting an NCAA scoring record.

Arkansas' Brooke Matthews, who recently smashed an NCAA scoring record, looks to make more noise in hometown LPGA event

Brooke Matthews grew up with the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. She’s not just a Razorback golfer. She’s a Rogers High School graduate and Pinnacle Country Club member who will have family, friends and neighbors out in full force to cheer her on just nine days after she set an NCAA scoring record. Matthews, 23, scorched the field at the Cougar Classic at Yeamans Hall Club in South Carolina with a 25-under 191 total, blasting the previous 54-hole record of 19 under.

She shot 63-64-64 to win by 13 strokes.

“During the presentation, when they told me the record I was like, ‘Wow, that’s crazy,’ ” said Matthews. “That’s bigger than something I could have thought I would’ve accomplished in college golf, so it was really cool.”

USA Team member Brooke Matthews smiles after hitting her tee shot on hole six during the Foursomes match against Great Britain and Ireland Team at the 2021 Curtis Cup at Conwy Golf Club in North Wales, United Kingdom on Friday, Aug. 27, 2021. (Oisin Keniry/USGA)

There are seven University of Arkansas ties in the 2021 field – four graduates (Maria Fassi, Stacy Lewis, Gaby Lopez and Alana Uriell) and three current students (Corey Lopez, Matthews and Monday qualifier Kajal Mistry). Matthews, a redshirt senior, tied for 49th in the event last year.

“She’s basically grown up with this tournament,” said Lewis. “I think Wendy Ward stayed with her and her family when she was younger. I can’t imagine for her what this week is going to be like, and to be playing at home and to be a Razorback.”

Lewis, a former World No. 1, won the inaugural Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2007 as an amateur, though it didn’t count as an official win because bad weather shortened it to one round. She won it again officially in 2014.

Razorbacks have been cutting their teeth at the event since its inception.

“It’s a tremendous recruiting tool to know that you get an opportunity to play in the event as an exemption,” said Lewis, “but also the Monday qualifying spots and just the access to professional golf and what it entails. There is no other university that has the access like this.

“I think it’s meant the world to our golf team.”

The long-bombing Matthews said she realized last spring that if she wanted to make it on the next level that she’d need to put more work into her short game. She tied for 10th at Stage I of LPGA Q-School the week prior to representing the U.S. in the Curtis Cup.

“In an ideal world I would take some momentum into Q-Series,” said Matthews, who noted that she will first compete in the Blessings Collegiate Invitational, which she won last year, in Arkansas before heading to Stage II of Q-School in Florida.

Lewis said Matthews’ 54-hole NCAA scoring record certainly got the attention of tour players, noting that Austin Ernst, last year’s winner in Arkansas, asked her “Did you see what Brooke Matthews shot?”

“I think the coolest part about (Matthews),” said Lewis, “is she just hasn’t played her best golf yet.”

– Julie Williams contributed

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