Ryder Cup: USA rookies Cantlay, Schauffele ready for McIlroy, Poulter

By Sports Desk September 23, 2021

Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter have a combined 46 Ryder Cup matches to their credit, while their opponents in Friday's foursomes, Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele, have none. 

That disparity is of no concern to the American rookies, who expressed confidence they will be able to get the job done at Whistling Straits in the final match of Friday's opening session. 

Considering their form lately, that makes sense. Cantlay enters his first Ryder Cup ranked fourth in the world, while Schauffele – who won Olympic gold this summer in Tokyo – is fifth. 

Cantlay won the final two events of the FedEx Cup playoffs, beating Bryson DeChambeau in a playoff at the BMW Championship and edging Jon Rahm by one stroke to take the Tour Championship. 

The duo also are comfortable playing together. They paired up for the foursomes and fourball at the 2019 Presidents Cup, winning both of their foursomes matches, and each also won his singles match in that event. 

"Xander and Patrick have had success in foursomes in The Presidents Cup, so we thought it was a natural fit for them to do foursomes here tomorrow morning," said USA captain Steve Stricker, an assistant captain with that 2019 team. 

As the final match on the course in the opening session, Cantlay and Schauffele also figure to have the full-throated support of what is expected to be an overwhelmingly pro-USA crowd. 

"It will be fantastic," Cantlay said. "The Wisconsin fans will be showing up and cheering us on all day. They have been great so far this week and those have just been practice rounds." 

Whatever their comfort level, the challenge they face is daunting, as McIlroy and Poulter have played together regularly for years and have exemplary records in Ryder Cup play.

"You always want to play against the best," Schauffele said. "Best way to challenge your game. Pat and I are looking forward to putting a point on the board and going from there."

Their European counterparts will of course have something to say about that. 

While McIlroy was complimentary of the young American pair Thursday, he did note that they will be stepping into an entirely different type of arena Friday. 

"Patrick has had a hell of a year and Xander is a great player," McIlroy said. "Probably doesn't quite compare to what a Ryder Cup is, so they will feel a little different on the first tee tomorrow."

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    The 29-year-old American birdied the 11th, 12th and 13th holes before pars to round out a strong start.

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    “I got off to a roll at the start and kind of made a bunch of putts and then I kind of lagged on the way coming in,” Cantlay said.

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    Both Cantlay and Hodges started on the La Quinta course but Nicklaus Tournament Course on Friday and the adjacent Stadium Course on the weekend.

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