Published Thursday, 27 September 2012
Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell walk to the stage during the Opening Ceremony. (© Getty)
The Ulstermen were paired together to face Jim Furyk and Brandt Snedeker of America in the first game of the competition.
European captain José María Olazábal revealed the draw at a spectacular opening ceremony on Thursday.
World number one McIlroy and McDowell, who clinched the title at Celtic Manor, were surprised to face Furyk and Snedeker - who last Sunday pulled off a £7m double of FedEx Cup and Tour Championship victories.
"To be honest they are not the opponents we were expecting," said McIlroy, who revealed a decision on who would hit the opening tee shot had not been set in stone.
"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.
"It is a great honour to lead Europe out in the Ryder Cup. We are going to go out there and get the blue on the board early."
McDowell, who was expecting to face Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, added: "For me personally it is huge because I was last man out in the last match and I am first out here.
I am very proud to be playing alongside my great friend and the greatest player on the planet.
"The morning session is hugely important and Jose Maria has stressed that. We know they are all important but we really feel that it is very important to make a fast start," McDowell added.
The NI duo played together in all three available team sessions in 2010, emerging with one and a half points.
At the Seve Trophy in 2009 they won three of four, with victories coming when they were sent out first and their only defeat in a fourball match when they weren't.
Asked about putting McIlroy and McDowell out first, Olazabal said: "We are not hiding anything. We are not second-guessing here. We are just going out and try to win points, period. We have to go for it.
"I know we are playing away, the crowds are going to be on their side. So just send the best players out there and see if they can perform well and manage to win those points."
The second game will see Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia, both unbeaten in foursomes in the match, take on Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley - like Snedeker a cup rookie.
Meanwhile in the other games, Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari face Zach Johnson and Jason Dufner, while Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker will take on Justin Rose and Ian Poulter.
The foursomes will be followed by afternoon fourballs.