Graeme McDowell proud to partner Rory McIlroy and lead Europe's Ryder Cup defence
Last Updated: September 28, 2012 12:26pm
Graeme McDowell is honoured to be leading Europe's defence of the Ryder Cup alongside Rory McIlroy who he describes as "the greatest player on the planet".
The former US Open champion claimed one and a half points from three matches with McIlroy at Celtic Manor two years ago as well as winning his key singles and is hoping the pair will gel again at Medinah.
It was therefore no surprise to see the Northern Irish duo together again when captain Jose Maria Olazabal announced his pairings for the opening foursomes matches although McIlroy was surprised to be up against rookie Brandt Snedeker and Jim Furyk.
13.20: Furyk and Snedeker v Mcilroy and McDowell
13.35: Mickelson and Bradley v Garcia and Donald
13.50: Dufner and Z Johnson v Westwood and Molinari
14.05: Stricker and Woods v Poulter and Rose
"To be honest they are not the opponents we were expecting," said McIlroy. "We know that their team is so strong all the way through, but it was a little surprise to see a rookie in their first group.
"It is a great honour to lead Europe out in the Ryder Cup. We are going to go out there and get the blue on the board early."
McDowell, who was expecting to face Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, added: "For me personally it is huge because I was last man out in the last match and I am first out here.
"I am very proud to be playing alongside my great friend and the greatest player on the planet.
"The morning session is hugely important and Jose Maria has stressed that. We know they are all important but we really feel that it is very important to make a fast start."
Europe's only defeat in the last five contests came at Valhalla in 2008 when they never recovered from losing the opening foursomes 3-1.
Mickelson and Bradley contest the second game against Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald, who have won all four of their foursomes outings together.
Garcia is also unbeaten in nine foursomes appearances overall - winning eight and halving the other - while Donald has won six out of six.
Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari were pitted against Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson, while the final game saw Ian Poulter and Justin Rose paired with Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker.
Poulter has only lost three matches in the Ryder Cup, but two of those came against Woods. However, Woods and Stricker's last two games together saw them thrashed 7&6 by Adam Scott and KJ Choi in the Presidents Cup in 2011 and hammered 6&5 at Celtic Manor by Westwood and Donald.
Asked about putting McIlroy and McDowell out first, Olazabal said: "We are not hiding anything. We are not second-guessing here. We are just going out and try to win points, period. We have to go for it.
"I know we are playing away, the crowds are going to be on their side. So just send the best players out there and see if they can perform well and manage to win those points."