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Last Updated: Friday, 17 September, 2004, 11:57 GMT 12:57 UK
Team America v European Union
By Matt Slater
Golf editor

In the red corner we have New World vigour, freedom fries and lite beer. In the blue corner we have Old World wisdom, pommes frites and warm bitter.

The Americans have the superstars, the major titles and home advantage. The Europeans have the Ryder Cup.

After their 2002 drubbing at The Belfry, the USA will need little in the way of motivation.

But Europe travel as much in hope as in expectation this time, and with good reason. Here's why.

Hal Sutton
With three players - Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Davis Love - in the top 10, the Americans are the better team on paper. If the team's rankings are added up and divided by 12 the result is an average of 18.67. Only three Europeans can beat this.

Bit of a walkover. The Americans have won a dozen between them, although one man - who else? - has trousered most of them. But take Tiger away and you still have four major-winners to pick from.

There are five debutants in the home ranks, although two of them stretch the definition of rookie slightly. The veteran duo Kenny Perry and Fred Funk take their Ryder Cup bows with Chad Campbell, Chris DiMarco and Chris Riley.

Ryder Cup caps
The seven team members that have already played Ryder Cup golf before can boast of 19 total cup appearances.

Ryder Cup points
Those 19 appearances have brought 37.5 points from a total of 79. A less than sparkling percentage of 47%.

He might ride high in the rankings, but the average American is a little short of form. Seven of the 12 are without wins this year, and Jay Haas hasn't won since 1993, while Fred Funk's funk has lasted since 1998.

With the world number two, four and six in their ranks - and two more players with majors - America should not lack for leadership. But with that many chiefs, who will be the Indians?

Weak links
With almost 100 years on the clock between them, Funk and Haas are likely to be used sparingly. But if they're being protected, what is Hal Sutton going to do with Chris Riley?

If this was a "get your medals out" contest it would be red all over. And the advantage of home soil - and a US-friendly set-up - cannot be discounted either. But this is a 12 against 12 dogfight. And my bet is that Sutton and his charges will be feeling blue come Sunday evening.

Bernhard Langer
With only Padraig Harrington in the top 10 and four players in the 60s, the average European ranking is a modest 38.25. Only two Americans have rankings worse than this.

Europeans can do many things - discover America, give it a language and a legal system, populate it - but they cannot win majors. Not for the last five years anyway.

Like Hal Sutton, European captain Bernhard Langer has five debutants to blood. Unlike Sutton, Langer's pups - Paul Casey, Luke Donald, David Howell, Thomas Levet and Ian Poulter - are just that. With Levet the oldest at 36, Europe will not be short of youthful endeavour.

Ryder Cup caps
Europe's Cup veterans can point to 18 appearances between them, only one less than their older opponents.

Ryder Cup points
A haul of 43.5 points from 80 matches gives Europe's old hands a win-loss percentage of 54%. With so little between the teams, this could be crucial.

The Europeans might be left looking at their shoes when it comes to majors or rankings, but half of the team have won this year, and three of them have won in the last month. Among those without wins in 2004, Darren Clarke has claimed five top-fives, while Casey has three.

Take your pick. From Sergio Garcia's jack-in-the-box exuberance to Colin Montgomerie's dignified determination. Europe wins the character contest.

Weak links
Howell's ranking rings alarm bells, but his matchplay record deserves respect. Paul McGinley hasn't won since 2001 but he sank the winning putt in 2002. Montgomerie has sunk to 62nd, but are you going to argue with his Ryder Cup record?

Say it aloud and see how it sounds: Europe are going to win at Oakland Hills this weekend. The Americans are favourites but those odds are the longest they've been since their defeat in 1985. A good team beats a group of good players every time.

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