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The World’s Most Gentlemanly Rivalry

Anthony Strogen previews this year’s Ryder Cup action

This weekend, treat the eyes of the golfing world will be fixed on the Medinah Country Club in Illinois for the 39th edition of the Ryder Cup between the USA and Europe. The Ryder Cup is unique on the golfing calendar as no other tournament attracts as much outside interest or inspires as much excitement in dedicated golf fans.

Europe will enter the tournament as defending champions, prescription knowing that a tie will be sufficient to see them retain the trophy. The team, headed by the big names of Rory McIlroy (the in-form golfer in the world now and the sport’s newly crowned poster boy), Lee Westwood, Luke Donald and Graeme McDowell, are expected to perform at their best. On the other side of the coin, there is no doubt that there are some suspect members of the team who will have to be on top form to hold their own. Players like Peter Lawrie, Nicolas Coelsaerts and Peter Hanson have either been absent from the top table for years or have never truly marked themselves down as members of golfs elite, and these will be the men captain Jose Maria Olazabel will have to be watching closest.

The American team will be keen to banish the memory of the missed opportunity at Celtic Manor last time out. Davis Love III must be happy with how his team has come together, with a plethora of big names and proven big stage performers.  The only question mark that might be raised is the lack of Ryder Cup experience in the team. With 4 debutants mixed in with the experienced campaigners of Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk, how the American rookies settle will be a key factor. However, any team including the likes of Woods, Mickelson and Watson among its ranks is bound to give a good account of itself.

This is one of the most evenly matched editions of the Ryder Cup ever and picking a winner with confidence is almost impossible. The Americans will look to start well and combine points in the Fourballs and Foursomes with their renowned pedigree in the Sunday matchups, while Europe’s more adventurous team can be expected to milk Medinah’s risk and reward opportunities. Home advantage may prove to be the difference, as the American crowd tend to be rapturously patriotic, something normally foreign to golf. The infamously hostile atmosphere at Brookline in 1999 and the unforgettable crowd at the “War on the Shore” in 1991 at Kiawah tipped the scales for America those years, and a home crowd may once again prove to be the difference between these two superstar-laden teams. Whatever the outcome, there’s certainly an intense five days of golf on the horizon.

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