Cream of golf battle for supremacy

Cream of golf battle for supremacy

CALM BEFORE STORM: Team USA's (from left) Justin Thomas, Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth share a joke during a practice session at the Le Golf National. REUTERS

American golfers are hungry for their first Ryder Cup victory on European soil in 25 years. The Europeans simply want to take the trophy back by winning for the seventh time in nine attempts.

For the first time, the world's top 10 players will all compete in the biennial showdown when the rivals tee off Friday at Le Golf National, a 12-man US lineup with 11 of the world's top 17 players out to end a quarter-century of European frustration.

"We're reminded of it quite often. So is it extra motivation? I'm not sure you really need extra motivation," US captain Jim Furyk said on Monday. "There's a thorn in their side."

Tiger Woods, a 14-time major winner who snapped a five-year win drought Sunday, has been on a Cup-winning team only once in seven tries, never in Europe. Phil Mickelson has never enjoyed the feeling either since the last US triumph in Europe came in 1993 at The Belfry in England.

"That's a part that's missing in their careers," Furyk said. "It's not anything I need to mention in the team room. There's not like a big '25' sitting in there anywhere. They are well aware of it and of how difficult it is to win in Europe. That's the battle we fight this week."

European captain Thomas Bjorn has world number two Justin Rose coming off a $10 million payday for capturing the US PGA playoff prize and half his team flew in from America early Monday as did the entire US squad.

"One thing I learned about the Ryder Cup is that no matter how tired you are, you are going to carry yourself and everything, all the last bit of adrenaline in your body, even if you have played a lot," the Dane said.

"This is about what you do as a team and it's about trying to win this trophy back to Europe. It's a completely different beast, the Ryder Cup, than playing in a regular tour event so they're pretty excited about it."

Furyk said he expects chants and songs and good-natured heckling that are part of the emotional Cup scene but nothing over the top.

"Do I think we're in for a hostile (reception)? No, I don't," Furyk said. "I do really admire the European crowd and I know they will be loud and I'm anxious to see it.

"I've always felt kind of a mutual respect. I know they will be loud. I know they will be boisterous. That's something my players have to respect but hopefully they enjoy. Hopefully, they thrive on that."

The Americans are excited after an emotional victory for 13th-ranked Woods coming off spinal fusion surgery that had spectators swarming the 42-year-old icon, who was nearly moved to tears.

"It's obviously a nice buzz for our team," Furyk said. "Not that this event needs much more energy brought to it -- it's probably the biggest, the grandest event in all of golf -- but it will add that much more excitement."

In all, 21 of the world's 28 top-ranked players will compete in the event.

"This is probably the strongest American team we've ever had and I would venture to guess it's maybe the strongest team Europe has ever fielded as well, from top to bottom," Furyk said. "Be a tough week for us but we're looking forward to that challenge."

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