KOHLER (AFP) — Europe has dominated recent Ryder Cup foursomes matches, the alternate-shot format unfamiliar to many American golfers, but the United States has hope for breaking the spell in Friday’s opening session.
Holders Europe, winner in nine of the past 12 Cups, has outscored the Americans 15.5-8.5 in foursomes over their past three meetings ahead of Friday’s start at Whistling Straits.
“Europe is so lucky with the personalities we have and how well we gel together,” said England’s Tommy Fleetwood. “We’ve always come out of it really good.”
Growing up with the format makes a difference, says England’s Paul Casey.
“I don’t believe there’s any sort of tricks or anything. It’s just something we’re a bit more used to,” he said.
“The British always spent lots of time playing foursomes as kids. It’s just something you do in club matches, county matches, even up to the international level.”
For US stars like Brooks Koepka, foursomes is seldom played.
“I like it. It’s just different,” the four-time major winner said. “I never played alternate shot until I got here.”
“It’s just tough to build a rhythm. You hit one good shot and you’re going to wait 15 minutes before you hit the next one.”
It’s the format that had Tiger Woods giving Phil Mickelson a death stare in 2004 when the left-hander’s tee shot left Woods deep in the trees.
“It’s uncomfortable for anybody, going a few holes without hitting a driver or without hitting a chip or a putt. You’ve just got to be so adaptable,” 11th-ranked American Harris English said.
“You have to know your partner well. You’re going to both hit bad shots but you’ve got to pick each other up and keep going.”
With only one ball per duo, pairs must decide what type to use, high-spin and low-spin options often crucial to a tandem’s success.
“You always want to be hitting your ball on an iron shot or approach to the green,” English said. “I would play my partner’s ball off the tee. That way he could be approaching the green with his own golf ball.”
“Spin matters a lot more when you hit an iron shot. Off the tee it doesn’t matter as much. Into the greens it matters a lot.”
US captain Steve Stricker said Olympic champion Xander Schauffele and PGA playoff champion Patrick Cantlay are a strong foursomes pairing.
“When you put guys together, especially in foursomes, you want their games to complement each other, and theirs do,” Stricker said.
Fewer shots, more tense
Cantlay said there’s more pressure in foursomes because each man hits fewer shots than usual.
“It feels like every shot you hit is more important because usually you would be hitting double the shots,” he said. “That pressure, while I haven’t heard it expressed that way, is a real thing that people feel, which makes them feel uncomfortable in foursomes.”
“Foursomes is a lot more emotional and the fact that Xander and I are really good friends, I know he’s trying as hard as he possibly can. It really helps to gel with your partner.”
Schauffele recalled being paired with Cantlay four times at the Presidents Cup against a non-European squad and how Cantlay made sure he knew being quiet was only him conserving energy.
“We just understand each other pretty well and I think that helps us play well together,” Schauffele said. “Even if we’re quiet or whatever, we just know we have each other’s back.”
And they have similar taste in golf balls.
“Our balls are actually pretty similar now, which is nice,” Schauffele said. “If you have two guys on the opposite sides of the spectrum you can get kind of a mess, especially when the breeze picks up out here.”