Ryder Cup LogoRyder Cup: Team USASeptember 22-24 2006, The K Club, Straffan, County Kildare, Ireland
Story Image Ian Woosnam is feeling good about his chances in September. (Photo: Getty Images)

U.S. inexperience gives Europe the edge, says Woosnam

The American team could have as many as four or five players who've never played in Europe, said European Captain Ian Woosnam, who also is very pleased that some of his veterans such as Padraig Harrington are rounding into form.

04 July 2006

STRAFFAN, Ireland (AP) -- The lack of experience among potential United States Ryder Cup golfers makes Europe Captain Ian Woosnam feel optimistic.

"They could have five players only one of whom has played in the British Open, four or five who have never played in Europe before," Woosnam said Tuesday before the start of the Smurfit European Open at the K Club.

Woosnam's team will defend the Ryder Cup here Sept. 22-24, although on a different course than the one that will host the European Open starting Thursday.

Along with Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk, the U.S. top 10 includes Zack Johnson, Brett Wetterich, Lucas Glover, Vaughan Taylor and J.J. Henry.

Aside from the big names, only Johnson has played in Europe, missing cut at the last two British Opens.

"It can be windy in Ireland in September. Are they going to be used to those conditions?" Woosnam said. "As things stand at the moment, I think we have a big advantage."

But he was not writing off the Americans completely.

"Over here, we don't know a lot about those guys. They are up and coming," he said. "They are obviously very good or they would not be where they are in America at the moment.

Europe won by a record-tying 18-1/2 points to 9-1/2 in 2004 at Oakland Hills near Detroit and Woosnam said he was pleased with the way his team was shaping up.

"Over the last four weeks the team has really changed, with some great players qualifying who I wanted to be there," he said, mentioning Padraig Harrington, whose second-place finish in the French Open on Sunday virtually clinched his spot on the team.

"A couple of guys are struggling, Sergio Garcia and Paul McGinley a little bit. I'd like to see them playing better," Woosnam added. "But we are going to have a lot of experience in there and maybe a couple of new guys as well."

One of those could be John Bickerton, a 36-year-old Englishman who won in France.

"He's a very steady player who hits the ball straight," he added. "If the rough is up, he's the sort of player you want to keep the ball on the fairway."

Woosnam is paired to play with McGinley in this week's tournament on the Smurfit Course; the Ryder Cup is on the older Palmer Course.

"I think I'll put my arm around his shoulder and have a little talk with him, just to tell him to keep doing what he's doing," Woosnam said of McGinley, who holed the Cup-winning putt for Europe at the 2002 Ryder Cup at the Belfry in England.

Woosnam scouted the Ryder Cup course on Tuesday, especially the last three holes.

"I think a lot of the matches are going to go, hopefully, to those holes. It is going to be very exciting for the crowds and for everyone involved," he said. "I'll be sitting in my buggy."

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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