Ryder Cup Logo Ryder Cup: Team USASeptember 22-24 2006, The K Club, Straffan, County Kildare, Ireland
Story Image Ian Woosnam (l) and the Europeans will face a formidable challenge from the Americans, says Paul McGinley (r). (Photo: Getty Images)

Building Respect

As the Europeans get set to finalize their team, players such as David Howell and Paul McGinley are impressed with the way U.S. Captain Tom Lehman is pulling his team together and are predicting a hard-fought match at the K Club.

August 31, 2006

MUNICH, Germany (AP) -- Europe has won the last two Ryder Cups, and four of the last five, and is the home team next month at the K Club in Ireland. Yet the Europeans do not consider themselves the favorites.

"The Americans have form at the moment, a lot of good form," Paul McGinley said. "They have a guy [Tiger Woods] who is probably the best golfer the world has ever seen, playing the best golf of his life."

McGinley was on the team that beat the Americans 18 1/2 to 9 1/2 at Oakland Hills two years ago. Last week, he played the first two rounds of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational with Woods, who has won his last four events.

"That is one hell of an asset to a team," McGinley said. "It's kind of hard not to make that team favorites."

Four rookies have made the U.S. team and two of them, Vaughn Taylor and Brett Wetterich, have never played match-play golf. The other two are Zach Johnson and J.J. Henry.

"I think they are a very, very strong team," McGinley added. "If they can qualify on their points system, they are one hell of a player."

McGinley said Europe's Ryder Cup success was based on having five or six very strong players and others who were not as well known.

"That was our formula for success and now the wheel has turned for the Americans," he said.

The Irishman discounted criticism of the U.S. team in America.

"I don't buy into that at all. They will be a very well-prepared team, very much driven by a very, very good captain [Tom Lehman] and I think they will be a formidable force. And to say that we are odds-on favorites, I don't see that at all."

No. 1-ranked European David Howell, assured of his team place, paid credit to Lehman for getting his entire team to The K Club this week for practice and bonding, something the Americans have been accused of lacking in the past.

"Tom is obviously really getting the troops together," Howell said. "Tiger and Phil [Mickelson] changed their plans to go which just goes to show how much they care about the thing."

Howell also feels having four rookies might be to the Americans' advantage.

"They are going to be so excited and with so much positive energy flying around the team room," he said. "It was like that the last time with us and it worked to our advantage.

"They are obviously very intent on righting the last two or three Ryder Cups and taking the trophy home. That's when they are going to be at their most dangerous. It's going to be a very tough match to win, I'm sure."

European Captain Ian Woosnam agreed.

"I think Tom is doing the best he can to get the team bonded. I think he has done a terrific job to get all 12 of them together, to fly over for two days then fly back to play another tournament. He's done a wonderful job."

The BMW Championship, which started on Thursday, will complete the 10 automatic qualifiers for Europe's team. Woosnam will round out his 12-man team with two captain's picks shortly after the tournament ends on Sunday.

Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Howell, Colin Montgomerie, Robert Karlsson and Paul Casey have all qualified. Padraig Harrington almost has -- but McGinley and Jose Maria Olazabal have not.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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