Golfers set for Ryder Cup

Preparations are underway in Oakland Hills, Michigan for the start of the 35th Ryder Cup competition, which begins on Friday.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:08 IST
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Despite the Europeans' six victories in the last nine Ryder Cups, players readily admit to being the underdogs this year. However, statistics would lead many to conclude the opposite is true. The United States has won the team portion of the Ryder Cup, two rounds of alternate-shot and better-ball each of the first two days, just once in the last nine matches. Under dogs "Well, of course we are the underdogs. We have been the underdogs many, many times and we are definitely the underdogs this year. If you look at the World Rankings which reflect how well the guys have played the last months or years, I don't know if we, you know, enjoy being the underdogs, but I don't mind it," Bernhard Langer. "When you play away, people, especially against a team like the USA, people don't expect you to win. And if you win, it's bonus for you. We don't have anything to lose this week, you know. The Americans are the favorite but we are very strong underdogs, you know, so you just -- it's an easy situation to be in, a bit easier than the Americans. It's their country. They have no rights to lose and I think that's why it's a bit easier for us," added Thomas Levet. "Of course, the cheers will be louder if an American putt goes in or whatever and that's obvious; we are playing away from home. I do hope, and saying this to everybody here, I do hope that good golf will be applauded, and that's why this competition is what it is. This competition is what it is because there's two great teams playing, very well-matched," added Colin Montgomerie. Europeans upbeat Even though the European side have been characterising themselves as the underdogs in this matchup, they have been victorious in three of the last four Ryder Cups. Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia who were 3-1 as a team at The Belfry, were paired in practice Wednesday, as were Luke Donald and Paul Casey, who were Walker Cup teammates and played as better-ball teams for nine holes. Then, the Europeans switched to the alternate-shot format on the back nine, with Westwood teamed with Darren Clarke and Garcia playing with Donald. "I like the fact that the Europeans, most of the European Team are playing well coming into this week and have had a lot of good results. I think that probably means more than the camaraderie. Although we do have a very good team spirit again this week, probably the best team spirit of all the Ryder Cups I've played in to be honest," held Lee Westwood. Mickelson on day off Phil Mickelson caused the biggest stir Wednesday at Oakland Hills by taking the day off from practice, an unusual decision that left everyone to wonder if American unity already was somewhat unstable. Davis Love III said that for Mickelson, it is "a normal routine for him to skip Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday completely," adding that "you hardly ever see the top players do that at a Masters or a US Open or an Open championship." But Mickelson's teammate, Stewart Cink, said the US players do have a strong sense of unity as they get ready for the start of play Friday. "Well, it is a different feeling being accountable to your teammates, not just yourself. But there's also no greater feeling as a player than to feel that nervousness on the first tee, to feeling that nervousness coming down the stretch in such important matches here at the Ryder Cup. I think we as players on the US side still feel like we have a lot to prove, losing three of the last four matches. I think that we desperately -- not desperately, we really want to play well this week. Everybody seems very focused in on doing just that," Phil Mickelson. "I think that old saying about their camaraderie being better because of the European Tour itself, I think that's pretty much dissipated now. We're all world travelers. We play individual tournaments all over the place. Everybody has their close group of friends. We all wish we could see them more. But I think it's pretty even on both sides," claimed Stewart Cink. Sutton's pairing Meanwhile, US Captain Hal Sutton has still yet to announce his pairings for the Ryder Cup. Captains usually have a good idea about teams midway through the week and start putting those players together during practice so they can get comfortable with each other. Sutton is keeping his guys in the dark. From the time his 12-man team was finalised on August 16th until sometime before opening ceremonies Thursday, the American players will not get the slightest hint whom their partners will be. And Sutton's pairings during the practice rounds don't offer much of a clue either. Tiger Woods played Tuesday with Jim Furyk, Chris Riley and Chad Campbell, all of whom have been linked as possible partners. Then, the next day, Woods went off in a twosome with Ryder Cup rookie Chris Di Marco. Bringing up the rear was a group of five players, another Ryder Cup rarity, of Davis Love III, Jay Haas, Fred Funk, Campbell and Jim Furyk. "Extremely important to get off to a great start. My pairings will be -- that's weighed heavily on my mind in my pairings. I think when we announce our pairings you'll see that that's weighed heavily on my mind. I'll put out the guys that I think can get it done. I've expressed and it goes back to being patient and staying in the present, one step at a time, we've got to get the first morning matches behind us in a successful way in order to move to the afternoon matches. I do not want to be put behind the 8-ball," said Hal Sutton. No doubt, Sutton hopes that he and his players will be the ones in possession of the Ryder Cup in a few days time. It has been two years since the Ryder Cup was last played - a 15-and-a-half to 12-and-a-half victory for Europe at The Belfry. The American's have won 24 times in the 77-year history of the Cup. Europe (formerly known as Britain until 1979) have won eight matches and two have been tied. (AP)