Jon Rahm said it was a “huge honour” to be sent out in the opening match by European captain Thomas Bjorn in the 42nd Ryder Cup.
The 23-year-old Spaniard has been paired with Justin Rose for the opening fourballs session at Le Golf National outside Paris, where they will lock horns with Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau.
It is the third match running that Rose has featured in the first European pairing sent into battle, but he’s got a new partner on this occasion after having Henrik Stenson at his side at both Gleneagles and Hazeltine.
“Very, very excited,” said Rahm of finding himself having been tossed in at the deep end as he follows in the footsteps of compatriots like Seve Ballesteros, Jose Maria Olazabal and Sergio Garcia by playing in the transatlantic tussle.
“It’s a huge honour to be able to open the Ryder Cup here in Europe and hopefully I can enjoy the moment and we put a point on the board.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to play enough with Justin throughout the year. It really is comfortable playing with him.
“I’m comfortable he’s going to be in the fairway before I have to hit it, so it’s a lot of positive ways to go with him out there.
Rose, winner of the FedEx Cup last weekend, was Europe’s top points-scorer in the win at Gleneagles four years ago and the Englishman is aiming to help get the home side off to a flying start on this occasion.
“It’s a huge honour,” he said of being sent out first once again. “I’ve been in that situation before and it’s a morning you can never really prepare for. Jon is going to feel it for the first time, but for me it’s going to feel like virtually the first time, as well.
“Only once every four years you get to do it at home, and it’s going to be very, very special. Obviously the atmosphere they have created in Paris with the stands and what-have-you, I’m excited to see how it feels in the morning.”
Europe suffered a 4-0 whitewash in the opening session at Hazeltine two years ago – and Rose is determined to get some blue on the board early this time around. “We’re going to figure out a way to get the job done and win the match,” he added. “It’s a responsibility to go out first. You want to start The Ryder Cup the right way for the team.
“We want to put a point on the board, and we want to do it as soon as possible. I think all four matches are incredibly important tomorrow. It would be nice for the European team to get off to a good start.”
Bjorn showed faith in his rookies by also sending out Thorbjorn Olesen, Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood in the first session at the expense of the more experienced Ian Poulter, Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia.
Fleetwood, last year’s Race to Dubai winner, has been paired with Open champion Francesco Molinari in the anchor match against Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed.
“We can’t wait to get started,” said Molinari, who is playing in the match for a third time, having been on winning teams at both Celtic Manor in 2010 and Medinah two years later.
“We enjoy each other’s company and we’ve been friends for a while now.”
Fleetwood added: “It doesn’t get any better. I couldn’t pick a better person to play with in my first Ryder Cup match. We get on great. I love this guy, and he’s pretty good at golf, too.”
On taking on Woods and ‘Captain America’ Reed, he said: “It’s a massive match, of course it is, but they are all going to be big. Everybody is looking at Tiger’s return. But, when we get to that golf course and when we get on the first tee, it’s down to what we do.
“We’ve practised our whole lives for this and we are just going to play our game and hopefully that will be good enough at the end of it.”
The Americans have not won on European soil since 1993 and Bjorn is hoping his players can extend that miserable run.
Sounding a rallying call to his troops, the Dane said: “Players stand up and they are counted for what they do in the greatest events in the world. But legends are made in this event.
“It’s an opportunity to go out there and be the best that you can be on a grand stage. Some of them have a long-standing Ryder Cup career and history with this event, and some of them are just setting out on a new chapter in their lives. But for all of them, it’s an opportunity to add to what their golf career is about.”
Opening pairings – Fourballs: 7.10am, Rose and Rahm v Koepka and Finau; 7.25am, McIlroy and Olesen v Johnson and Fowler; 7.40, Casey and Hatton v Spieth and Thomas; 7.55, Molinari and Fleetwood v Reed and Woods.
Ryder Cup schedule: Friday: Morning: Four Fourballs. Afternoon: Four foursomes beginning at 12.50pm. Saturday: Morning: Four Fourballs starting at 7.10am. Afternoon: Four Foursomes starting at 12.50pm. Sunday: 12 singles starting at 11.05am (all times BST).