Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell will begin Europe's defence of the Ryder Cup when plays begins at Medinah Country Club in Chicago on Friday.

The Northern Irish duo will face Brandt Snedeker and Jim Furyk in the opening match which is due to begin at 1320 BST.

The experienced pairing of Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia, who are unbeaten in four appearances together, will come up against the vastly experienced Phil Mickelson and Ryder Cup rookie Keegan Bradley.

Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell
McIlroy and McDowell played together at Celtic Manor two years ago [Reuters]

Italian Francisco Molinari will partner Ryder Cup veteran Lee Westwood as they look to topple debutant Jason Dufner and big hitting Zach Johnson.

World number two Tiger Woods will play with Steve Stricker to make a very strong final pairing, and they will face the enigmatic Ian Poulter and fellow Brit Justin Rose.

"When I look at foursomes, I want to have players who are consistent and are steady from tee to green," revealed European captain Jose Maria Olazabal. "There were no surprises from Davis Love, they are all strong pairings and some of those have played before.

"The way my players are playing is the most important thing. They believe we can win here even though the US have the crowd advantage and the experience of playing here. I will tell my players to remember it is a special event and will leave moments that are unique to this event and ones that will last a lifetime."

The Spaniard was also quick to pay tribute to the late Seve Ballesteros who was a good friend of Olazabal and a man who encompassed just how much the Ryder Cup means.

"He was a special man," he said. "I believe Seve reflected the core of Ryder Cup values - no quitting and be prepared to chase any adversity. From him I learnt what true passion is all about. Seve, we miss you."

Europe will look to get off to a strong start by pairing world number one McIlroy alongside McDowel; the duo winning one-and-a-half points out of a possible three at Celtic Manor two years ago.

"I can't wait. Leading the side off we are going to go out there and get the blue on the board early," said McIlroy.

"To be honest they are not the opponents we were expecting. 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."

In the final match of the day, Woods and Stricker team up having been beaten 6&5 by Westwood and Donald in Wales, but the 14-time major winner is confident the pair can deliver.

"Strick and I are very comfortable together," said Woods. "We've had some pretty good success over the years and we both have been playing well.

"Our captain said that would be a good fit and he wanted us out there to anchor. We know each other's game and we practice a lot together at tournaments. We know what to expect from each other."