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  1. ITV Report

Clarke sending out the Ryder Cup 'big guns' to start

Team Europe’s Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke is depending on the big guns getting them off to a good start against Team USA at Hazeltine on Friday.

Darren Clarke leads out Team Europe at the Ryder Cup opening ceremony. Credit: PA

England’s Justin Rose and Sweden’s Henrik Stenson pair up again to take on two-time major winner Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed – America’s best pairing last time round in Scotland.

“Justin and Henrik are a very proven, successful Ryder Cup pairing, and both are very strong players,” Clarke said.

“We've got the Olympic champion and the Open champion. They were always going to be my choice for leading Europe off in this match. That was never, never in doubt.”

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and rookie Andy Sullivan take on Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler, while Spain’s Sergio Garcia and German Martin Kaymer play Jimmy Walker and Zach Johnson.

Rory McIlroy pairs up with Andy Sullivan. Credit: PA

There had been speculation Danny Willett would pair up with his fellow Englishman Lee Westwood, but that turns out not to be the case and it is Belgian Thomas Pieters who joins Westwood.

Clarke has denied that decision is down to Willett’s form seeming to suffer amid a storm surrounding a column written by his brother Peter branded team USA fans “a braying mob of imbeciles”.

In his final practice round on Thursday, Willett hit one spectator on the head at the second hole and produced a number of other wayward shots which prompted several on-course discussions between the captain and his assistants.

“Danny's playing fine. I have no worries about Danny whatsoever, mentally or otherwise,” Clarke said, denying a last-minute change of heart.

“His golf game's good. He's ready to go play. Obviously the incident that has happened has created a bit of a furore, but Danny himself is the Masters champion.

“He's like all the guys; he's disappointed he's not playing in the morning, and he understands what I'm trying to do is for the team.

“Danny will play in the afternoon and he may well play four times.”