Welsh mountain to climb for Cup holders the U.S.
Atlanta:Ryder Cup holders the United States will face an uphill task in Newport, Wales, next week when they try to win the cherished trophy for the first time in 17 years on European soil.
Although the Americans performed superbly in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2008 to end a run of three successive defeats by Europe, they readily accept the home team will be favourites on a purpose-built course at Celtic Manor Resort.
"It`s going to be a different story playing overseas," U.S. captain Corey Pavin told reporters in the build-up to the biennial team competition. "They will be able to set up Celtic Manor as they wish, plus they have a very partisan crowd."
"We haven`t won on foreign soil since 1993 so it`s going to be a real challenge. The teams themselves are very comparable but, given the advantage of playing in Europe, that gives the edge to the Europeans."
American world number two Phil Mickelson will be competing in his eighth Ryder Cup, and has yet to experience success on European soil.
"This is my fourth opportunity (in Europe) and it would be very cool if we were able to do that," the four-time major winner said. "But saying that and accomplishing it is a different thing."
"We`re going to be an underdog, we`re playing a very good, strong European team and it`ll be a challenge."
The strength in depth of the European team was sharply highlighted by the quality of players who failed to make captain Colin Montgomerie`s 12-man lineup.
World number seven Paul Casey and fellow Briton Justin Rose, a double winner on the PGA Tour this season, are among the notable absentees.
"We had an embarrassment of riches on this occasion and Justin Rose and Paul Casey are (among) those world stars who have been left out," Montgomerie said.
"But at the same time, we are all unanimous in our decision that we have the strongest 12 players here in Europe. Trying to get that magic number that Europe need, 14-1/2 points (out of a possible 28), was our main criterion in selecting this team."
Home advantage and the impact of partisan fans have long been considered significant Ryder Cup factors, but Montgomerie does not plan to `trick up` Celtic Manor`s Twenty Ten course.
"You can tie yourself in knots trying to set up courses to suit certain people," said the 47-year-old Scot, a veteran of eight Ryder Cups as a player. "You come unstuck sometimes."
"I think good golf will be the winner. At the end of the day, if you play better than your opponent, you`ll beat him."
While Pavin does not expect any major surprises from the par-71 layout, he has a feeling Montgomerie will thicken the rough some 290 yards from the tees to blunt long-hitting Americans such as Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson and Mickelson.
"That`s what I`d do if I were him," Pavin said with a smile. "But, other than that, it will be a fair test. I think he wants to have the team that is playing the best to win."
Since 1981, there has been very little to choose between the two teams in terms of matchplay grit and ability. The knack of holing putts at the right time under intense pressure has been the decisive factor.
Although the Americans have generally bristled with major winners, the Europeans seem to gel better as a 12-man unit.
Traditionally, the U.S. have gone into the Ryder Cup with a much stronger line-up, particularly with regard to individual world rankings, but that has swung Europe`s way for the last two editions.
This year, the Americans hold a slight rankings edge with eight players in the world`s top 20 versus Europe`s seven. With top-ranked Tiger Woods, Mickelson (second), Steve Stricker (fourth) and Jim Furyk (sixth), the U.S. have four of the leading six.
The average world ranking in Pavin`s team is 17.33 compared with 18.16 in Montgomerie`s.
"I`ve got a group of very strong competitors who want to win very badly and I am looking forward to a pretty good battle," Pavin said.
The 38th Ryder Cup starts on Oct. 1 with the opening fourball matches at the first Welsh venue to host the team competition