Tom Watson out to smash Europe Ryder Cup stranglehold
Paul McGinley`s Europe will start as hot favourites to retain the Ryder Cup against Tom Watson`s United States at Gleneagles, Scotland next week.
Edinburgh: Paul McGinley`s Europe will start as hot favourites to retain the Ryder Cup against Tom Watson`s United States at Gleneagles, Scotland next week.
The Europeans have dominated the biennial team showdown for the past 20 years, defeating the Americans seven out of nine times and five out of the last six.
The last occasion came two years ago in Medinah outside of Chicago when Jose Maria Olazabal`s men staged the greatest final day comeback in Ryder Cup history, sweeping the 12 singles 8 1/2 to 3 1/2 and winning 14 1/2 to 13 1/2 - identical to the score in 2010 at Celtic Manor in Wales.
This time around all the lights are at green for the Europeans.
McGinley`s team has four out of the top six ranked players in the world spearheaded by top-rated Rory McIlroy, while Watson is without the injured Tiger Woods, and has also injury concerns over Matt Kuchar and worries over the form of his three wildcards.
Home advantage is another plus for McGinley and the knowledge that 14 points will do to retain the coveted trophy, while the Americans need 14 1/2 to capture it for the first time since 2010.
Still, there are those who feel that this just might be the occasion for living legend Watson to orchestrate a famous victory.
The 64-year-old eight-time major winner, a big favourite in Scotland, has already enjoyed Ryder Cup success as a player and he was the winning captain at The Belfry in 1993 - the last time the Americans won away.
Others feel the absence of star-attraction Woods can only galvanise the American 12 as it did the last time they won the cup at Valhalla in 2008 and that the gut-wrenching loss at Medinah will stiffen American resolve.
McGinley, the first Irishman to skipper the European team, is adamant he will allow no complacency in a side that includes battle-hardened Cup veterans like Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Graeme McDowell and Thomas Bjorn.
"I`m under no illusions whatsoever," he said Wednesday at Celtic Manor where four of his players -- Bjorn, Westwood, Jamie Donaldson and Stephen Gallacher were fine-tuning their games at the Wales Open.
"The players, I`ve spoke to them all, were all really gung ho and ready for this Ryder Cup. This is not about being complacent.
"If we don`t win this Ryder Cup, it won`t be because of complacency, I can assure you that. We are very motivated.
"We know it`s going to be a very strong American Team. We know it`s going to be a very strongly motivated team and a very strongly led American Team, as well.
"So we are under no illusions how big this task is. It`s not a case of turning up and the Americans are going to roll over.
"This is going to be very, very difficult to win this Ryder Cup.
"I think we`ve got a slightly different threat from America than we`ve had in the past as far as they really feel like they are underdogs and they are up against it."
Watson, for his part, has spoken of the desire he and his players have to make amends for Medinah.
"Our team, they`ve got that motivation from 2012 that I`m going to lay on them," he said. "I think that`s a great motivator."
"Their team is full of star power, people who have been playing well. The European team is the stronger of the teams on paper but I have extreme confidence in the players on our team and the motivation to go out and win the Cup."
"I`m wonderfully happy with the team. Every player has the ability to play great golf. My job as a captain is to inspire them. And the motivation is there. These players are motivated to the Nth degree to win this Ryder Cup."
Watson has also spoken about the need to down McIlroy, the spearhead of the European team and top golfer in the world this year.
Others have targeted Ian Poulter, the hero of Medinah and the most fiery and emblematic of the home players.
In the absence of Woods, Phil Mickelson will likely be the central figure in the locker-room as he sets off in what will be his 10th Ryder Cup.
Both teams will have three rookies and three wildcards in the fourballs-foursomes-singles clash taking place at Gleneagles in eastern Scotland September 26-28.