Ballesteros and Olazabal won 12 points across 15 foursome and fourball matches during their Ryder Cup tenure, more than double the next highest points tally by any other pairing in the cup’s history.
But immaterial of the result in their opening match-up against America’s leading pairing of Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas today, there is an expectation that world No1 Rahm and fellow Spaniard Garcia, the record points scorer in Ryder Cup history, will click as the week progresses.
After the foursomes pairings, which were known to the team as early as Monday, were made public, Rahm said: “It’s a big honour. It means the captain has faith in me and who I am partnered with.
“There is nothing better than to be paired with my friend. Spanish legacy is deep in the Ryder Cup and I’m hoping we can start a new tradition.”
Rahm and Garcia have played just one practice round together this week, part of a change in approach by captain Padraig Harrington from previous cup outings.
Explaining his mentality, he said he wanted to avoid players getting bored with each other.
“I’m the first captain probably to do it like that but you want to turn up on Friday still with that freshness, enthusiasm and a little bit of intrigue,” he said.
Putting out Rahm and Garcia in the all-important first match marks them out as Harrington’s perceived No1 pairing, despite playing down the partnership earlier in the week by saying a shared nationality was not necessarily an indicator of pairing success.
But after announcing the foursomes duos, he said: “Sergio is the experienced one and leading out there but he knows he’s playing with the world No1. They’re very comfortable that they’re going to get the best out of both of their games.”
In the second foursomes match, Paul Casey and rookie Viktor Hovland take on Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa, while match three is between Lee Westwood and Matt Fitzpatrick, and Brooks Koepka and Patrick Berger. The foursomes finale sees Rory McIlroy once again paired with Ian Poulter, and up against Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele.
While Harrington said he would have been happy throwing any of his 12 players into the opening foursomes matches, the telling omission is Tommy Fleetwood, who is overlooked along with rookies Shane Lowry and Bernd Wiesberger, as well as a slightly out of sorts Tyrrell Hatton.
Fleetwood was one of the stars of Europe’s resounding victory in Paris three years ago when he won all four of his foursomes and fourballs matches as part of the Moliwood pairing with Francesco Molinari.
And Harrington said: “That says a lot about our team that he [Fleetwood] is comfortable after going 4-0 and can look around his team and be confident that there’s other people that are taking up that strain.
“He’s prepared to sit there and wait his chance in the afternoon, which really just sums up our team, how balanced it is and the understanding of the players that they have to give other people their opportunity as well.
“I want every player on our team to be absolutely dying to play every match. But I want them to also understand that there are other people in the team, they have to step aside.”