HAVEN, WIS. – European Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington didn't need a magic ball to foresee the first alternate-shot match off early Friday morning at Whistling Straits:
His own world No. 1 Jon Rahm and fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia against longtime American pals Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth.
"Look, if you didn't predict this," he said. "They're putting their best out. We're putting our best out. Let's have a go at it."
That first foursomes match starts 7:05 a.m. Central time, followed by Dustin Johnson/Collin Morikawa vs. Paul Casey/Viktor Hovland, Brooks Koepka/Daniel Berger vs. Lee Westwood/Matt Fitzpatrick and Patrick Cantlay/Xander Schauffele vs. Rory McIlroy/Ian Poulter.
The American pairings were pretty predictable. Europe surprised some with 40-somethings Garcia, Westwood and Poulter all summoned first thing for their experience and savvy. U.S. captain Steve Stricker said he didn't try to anticipate Europe's lineup, but he figured Rahm and McIlroy would be first and fourth in either order.
Bryson DeChambeau, Harris English, Tony Finau and Scottie Scheffler won't play for the U.S. team in the morning. Neither will Europe's Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrell Hatton, Shane Lowry and Bernd Weisberger.
European players' golf bags each carry a number given them after Harrington showed a motivational video entitled "Make It Count." It informed them each is one of just 164 to play for Europe in a Ryder Cup.
That's far fewer than the 570 people who have been in space, the 5,780 who have climbed Mount Everest or even the 225 men who have won a golf major.
Now 48, Westwood is No. 118 from his 1997 Ryder Cup debut. Garcia is 120, Poulter 134, Rahm 161 and last man added to the team Weisberger 164.
"It was very powerful," Garcia said. "I didn't know my number. I've always known that being a part of the Ryder Cup team is very difficult, but I didn't know that only that little amount of players have made it. That's why we give it the respect it deserves."
World No. 3-ranked Morikawa declared his back healthy after he injured a muscle at the Tokyo Olympics, aggravated it in Memphis and finished last or next to last his past two events.
"It was really bad timing, but I'm glad I'm healthy now," said Morikawa, a two-time major winner already. "I'm glad the body and the swing is back."
Not whistling Dixie
Europe's Casey is playing at Pete Dye-designed Whistling Straits for a fourth time — three PGA Championships, including a tie for 12th in 2010, and now his fifth Ryder Cup.
"This place is spectacular," Casey said. "What a creation. Always been a Pete Dye fan. Love it. What a challenge and I think it's a great golf course for this week."
Europe's emotional leader McIlroy vows he'll dial it down after his Sunday singles match with Patrick Reed at Hazeltine National in 2016.
"I certainly will try to not be as animated," he said. "It's a lot of golf. I'll try to play the best golf I possibly can, but I learned quite a few things from 2016 about conserving energy. I sort of hit a wall on the back nine against Patrick that day and I want to make sure that doesn't happen again."
·Tiger Woods sent a text that Stricker said he'd read to players Thursday night. Former captains sent them as well. "Tiger is part of this Ryder Cup family," Stricker said. "We're sad he's not here."
·Often hat-less McIlroy at Ryder Cups because of his tiny head, McIlroy has worn one during practice rounds. "They made some for me, so that's a start," he said. "It's sort of become my thing in the Ryder Cup to not wear a hat. I don't know, we'll see."