Ryder Cup: will McDowell and McIlroy be Europe's enforcers?
First clues towards potential pairings emerge as the teams practice as Gleneagles
With the Ryder Cup just days away, the phony war has begun as the players start practice ahead of the tournament and the team captains try to keep their plans secret.
The most notable decision from Paul McGinley, the Europe captain, on Tuesday morning was to split heavyweight Northern Irish duo Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy, who have been regular partners in team events for five years and have played together six times in the Ryder Cup.
They were in separate groups as the 12-strong European team took to the course in four groups of three.
McDowell admitted the "dynamic" between the two men had changed since McIlroy's rise to world number one status. He explained that he no longer needed to act as McIlroy's "older brother" on the course and said: "He would now be the leader of the two of us and perhaps the dynamic doesn't work as well as it did in the past. Perhaps I'm the kind of guy that needs that leadership role a little bit, who needs to feel like he is at least on a level with the guy he's playing with."
The guessing game about who will play with whom has already begun. "This far out – and it is foolhardy to read too much into Tuesday pairings - it seems McIlroy will play in the fourballs with Sergio Garcia and in the foursomes with Martin Kaymer," says James Corrigan in the Daily Telegraph, noting that those were the players McIlroy was with on Tuesday. "It is understood Kaymer has been in Germany practising with Nike balls – the brand used by McIlroy – in anticipation of playing in the alternate shot format with the world No1."
The Northern Irishmen could also be well employed as team leaders. "There is also something to be said for splitting up two major champions and using each of them to chaperone a rookie in the foursomes," says John Hopkins in The Times. "After all, McDowell and McIlroy are playing in their fourth and third Ryder Cups respectively, invaluable experience for such a nerve-racking event."
To that end The Guardian predicts that McDowell will partner Victor Dubuisson, and the pair were joined by Henrik Stenson in practice.
"It was no surprise to see good friends Justin Rose and Ian Poulter in the same group along with the local favourite Stephen Gallacher," says the paper. "Thomas Bjorn, Lee Westwood and Jamie Donaldson made up the other threesome – all three played in the Wales Open last week, with Westwood and Donaldson playing together in the first two rounds at Celtic Manor."
The Americans split into three groups of four. Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson alongside Matt Kuchar and Jordan Spieth, while Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson, Hunter Mahan and Patrick Reed teamed up in the second group. Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson were out with Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker.