Edge to Euros?

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:02 AM ET

Ask the question a dozen times and you'll get a dozen answers. Or a dozen shrugs, because nobody really knows. Every two years at the Ryder Cup, the Americans send out a team that looks, on paper, unbeatable.

And in recent years, sending out a bunch of guys named Joe, the Europeans beat them.

It has happened in three of the past four renewals and the only time the Americans won in that span, 1999, they had to stage the biggest Sunday comeback in history to accomplish it.

This year's matches, which begin tomorrow here at Oakland Hills, just outside Detroit, are no different. The Americans have a team of stars, headed by Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Davis Love. The U.S. team brings to the competition an impressive resume that includes 12 major championships.

The Europeans? Not a major championship in the lot.

"I don't think it matters," Colin Montgomerie said. "I think it's very important how the eight guys who play on Friday morning handle the pressure.

"I'm not saying that major championships aren't pressure. But nothing prepares you for this. It's a unique situation and I don't think winning majors can prepare you for what happens Friday morning."

In the past, the Europeans have been characterized as hungrier and more determined. As perpetual underdogs, they always have arrived at this event with that mind-set, scratching and clawing for every half-point.

"You know, being an underdog offers you the opportunity to have the attitude that, 'if I fail, everybody thought I was going to fail.' So that's a position you can find solace in," U.S captain Hal Sutton said.

"Personally, I feel that if you're the favourite and you figure a way to corral the talent and put it in the right motion, that's a better position to be in."

But the differences between the American stars and the European anti-stars that always seems to work in Europe's favour seems to be their ability to come together as a team.

Golf is an individual game normally and all these players are individual entrepreneurs. It is not a natural thing for them to be part of a team.

For some reason, however, and perhaps it goes back to the underdog role they wear so well, it takes little effort for them to bond into a team. It may also have something to do with the fact that, as largely a collection of non-superstars, they have an easier time checking their egos.

"We are the poor country cousins, trying to prove ourselves every time we come to the Ryder Cup," Irishman Padraig Harrington said. "We have a little chip on our shoulders and something we are trying to prove. That's why we get so inspired."

AN IRRITATION

Tomorrow opens with four morning four-ball (best-ball) matches and four afternoon foursomes (alternate shot).

These team games traditionally have been where the Europeans find a way to get the upper hand, an irritating fact to the Americans who can't figure out why it happens.

"It's not as if any of us, USA or Europe, play a lot of that kind of golf," Davis Love said. "But history tells us that we Americans haven't adapted as well as they have. If anything, we get more opportunities to play this kind of golf because of the Presidents Cup. That means the top U.S. players get to play it every year, as opposed to every other year."

It has been suggested the Americans simply don't care as much about the Ryder Cup as the Europeans, but that would seem to be dispelled by their reactions when they win. Those are fightin' words in the American camp.

"We all go out with the same attitude, and that's to win," Tiger Woods said. "I don't go into any tournament thinking it would be great to lose."

But perhaps his opponents go into matches against Woods thinking how fine it would be to win against the greatest golfer of his generation.

"That's the way it has been since my first Ryder Cup," Woods said.

Maybe that's the answer: The David versus Goliath syndrome.

When the Americans look at the Europeans, they see Colin Montgomerie, Darren Clarke, Sergio Garcia, Padraig Harrington and a handful of vaguely familiar faces.

When the Euros look at the Americans, they see a dozen versions of Tiger Woods.


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