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US, Europe Face Off in Ryder Cup Golf Tournament Friday - 2002-09-24

The three-day Ryder Cup men's golf competition between the United States and Europe is to begin Friday at The Belfry near Birmingham, England. Normally held every two years, it was postponed from last September because of the terrorist attacks on the United States. But the 12-man teams have not changed.

There is no doubt that the teams that were set to play in the Ryder Cup last year are not as strong this year because, as U.S. captain Curtis Strange says, "games go up and down." Some players are just not playing golf as well as they were a year ago, while others who are playing well can not be included on the respective squads. Those who earned berths leading up to last year's postponed event do not lose them.

But Golf Digest editor Matt Rudy told VOA Sports that could make for a different atmosphere.

"I think they are trying to retain as much of the tradition of the event as possible," he said. "Obviously with the terrible things that happened that caused the tournament to be postponed, and I mean nobody was suggesting they should play it, but I think they wanted to retain as much of the original flavor of what would have happened last year as possible. So I think there is going to be a lot of patriotism. I think there is going to be a lot of hand-holding. It is going to be more of a friendly event than it normally is because of the circumstances surrounding it, and I think that will offset any of the sort of lack of polish among some of the players."

While only three players on each 12-man Ryder Cup team have won a tournament this year, there is no lack of polish for the world's No. 1 golfer, American Tiger Woods. The Masters and U.S. Open champion is coming off a victory Sunday at the World Golf Championship in Ireland.

Between last September and now, Woods, No. 2 Phil Mickelson, David Toms, and Jim Furyk are the only members of the American team whose ranking has not gone down. Of their opponents, only Sergio Garcia and Padraig Harrington have not fallen in the world rankings.

Golf Digest's Matt Rudy believes the visiting team has a good chance of beating the Europeans at The Belfry.

"It is really an American-style course," he said. "It is a target golf course. I mean you could pick it up and drop it down in Ohio and Minnesota and it really would not be out of place. I think it is an American-style golf course, but the biggest thing is the Americans have a whole lot more talent all the way through their roster. They are just deeper. If they play like they can, it should be one of the first blowouts, I think, in four or five Ryder Cups."

Unlike most four-round, 72-hole events that professional golfers play most of the year, the Ryder Cup is played over three-days and features various forms of head-to-head match-play. The Americans are the defending champions.