Ryder Cup: Sheffield’s Matt Fitzpatrick to partner Lee Westwood in Friday’s foursomes

Matt Fitzpatrick believes the European team will be a much tougher proposition this week than on his Ryder Cup debut - thanks to the presence of Ian Poulter.

Ian Poulter with European team-mate Matt Fitzpatrick on the fourth tee during practice. Pictures: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Sheffielder Fitzpatrick - who will partner Worksop’s Lee Westwood in Friday’s opening foursomes - is making his second appearance in the biennial event at Whistling Straits after a disappointing rookie outing at Hazeltine five years ago.

One notable difference in the team from then, however, is that Poulter is back on board.

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Poulter, the European talisman, was forced to sit out the last event on American soil due to injury.

Sheffield's Matt Fitzpatrick. Picture: Warren Little/Getty Images

He was still involved as a vice-captain but his impact was not the same as Europe went down to a heavy 17-11 defeat.

“Everyone knows what Ian Poulter is about,” said Sheffield-born Fitzpatrick. “I’ve already noticed that there’s kind of a different feeling having him play on the team.

“He just gives you confidence. You see how he interacts with the crowd, how he goes about his days. He’s very switched on, he knows what to do. He’s done plenty of these now.

“Being around him has helped me feel a bit more confident going into the week.”

Fitzpatrick is happier to be on Poulter’s side than playing against him.

“You just don’t want to face that,” said the 27-year-old. “When he’s on, he’s a man on a mission.

“He’s pretty much unstoppable when he’s doing that to you. Long may it continue.”

In the first match in Friday fourballs Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth, the USA’s most successful pair in Paris three years ago, face the Spanish duo of Sergio Garcia and world number one Rahm.

Following them were Dustin Johnson and Open champion Collin Morikawa against Paul Casey and rookie Viktor Hovland.

USA rookie Daniel Berger and Brooks Koepka are third off against Westwood and Fitzpatrick, with the in-form Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele against Ryder Cup stalwarts Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter.

Fitzpatrick is hoping for a much better experience than at Hazeltine, when he felt underused by then captain Darren Clarke.

He said: “I tried to forget Hazeltine pretty quickly. At the time, (I was) disappointed, frustrated.

“I would have liked to have played a fourball match before my singles just to play my own ball, to see what it is like in competition.

“Obviously I played one foursomes on the Saturday morning but it’s like the equivalent of playing nine holes, really. There’s no flow or rhythm to it.

“That was the big thing I took away, that if I ever played again, I (would) speak to the captain, and say, ‘Listen, I’m not saying you have to play me in the fourball, (but) I feel like it would benefit me to have that experience of what it’s going to be like Sunday with the crowds and the pressure’.

“But I look back at the way I was hitting it at the time compared to now, it was very different.

“It was my first-ever one. It was in America and around a golf course that did not suit me one bit.”

Friday’s Foursomes

(Europe names first, all times BST)

1305 Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia v Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth

1321 Paul Casey and Viktor Hovland v Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa

1337 Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick v Brooks Koepka and Daniel Berger

1353 Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter v Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele