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Plenty of reasons why Ryder Cup is special

Published September 17. 2010 05:00PM

There's something special about the Ryder Cup.

Maybe it's that it only comes along once every two years. Maybe it's the team format or match play that makes it more exciting.

Maybe it's that for one week some of the wealthiest athletes in the world are playing with no money on the line, just national pride. Or maybe it's because of all the times the US team has pulled victory out of the throes of defeat.

The 38th Ryder Cup will be contested October 1-3 at Celtic Manor in the City of Newport, Wales and the US will be the underdog to a European team led by several players who coming off the best years of their careers.

Each team has several Ryder Cup rookies - four on the US team and six for Europe.

While many Euros are playign well, the US has players that have been great at times over the past few years and will need to be at their best to retain the Cup.

Here's a look at each team.

Leading Europe are two tested veterans in Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood, along with two Cup rookies in Martin Kaymer and Rory McIlroy.

Poulter (5-2 in Ryder Cups, 2-0 in singles) is ranked 13th in the world and won this year's Accenture Match Play event. Westwood (14-10-5 in RC, 2-4 in singles) is ranked third in the world. He made five top 10s on the PGA Tour this year and was second at two majors.

Kaymer is fifth in the world rankings. He won his first major this year and was top 10 in two others. McIlroy is still on the rise. He's eighth in the world. He won his first PGA Tour event this year and got third in two majors.

The US team can be just as strong with its top players. But as a group, they haven't been as consistent this year as their European counterparts. And it's hard to narrow down who will emerge as the top players.

Phil Mickelson, the defacto leader of the team, is 10-14-6 overall and 3-4 singles play. He's ranked second in the world and on the PGA money list. He's got five top 10s this season, but didn't play great in three majors after winning his third Masters.

Tiger Woods (9-13-2, 3-1-1 singles) is still the No. 1 player in the world. And he's still Tiger Woods.

Jim Furyk (9-13-2, 4-1-1 singles) is coming off a good year. The former PIAA champ won twice on the PGA Tour this season and is sixth in the world. He could surely grind out a few wins.

Zach Johnson (1-2-1, 0-1 singles) is coming off two of his best PGA seasons, including nine top 10s in 2009 and three wins over two years.

Steve Stricker (0-2-1, 0-1 singles) is still ranked fifth and playing as well as he ever has. He's won four of his last 15 starts and five tournaments over two years. He could emerge as an anchor for the US line up.

Ryder Cup rookie Dustin Johnson played as well as anyone late in the PGA season. He had two wins this season and was close to making a US Open playoff.

The US Team's hottest player has to be Matt Kuchar, who is leading the Fed Ex Cup stangings. He's 10th in the world rankings and on the PGA money list. He has nine top 10s this season in 21 events and finished in the top 30 in all four majors.

Hunter Mahan (2-0-3, 0-1 singles) was the US team's top point-producer in its win at Valhalla in 2008. He's got two PGA Tour wins this season.

That's a solid top eight. But the European's top two-thirds is just as strong.

Luke Donald has an impeccable Ryder Cup Record at 5-1-1 overall (1-1 singles). He's ranked ninth in the world and was third at this year's Celtic Manor Wales Open. He had five PGA Top 10s this year, one European Tour win.

US Open champion Graeme McDowell (2-1, 1-0 singles) played well in his first Ryder Cup and has played well at this year's venue , winning the Celtic Manor Classic this season.

Padraig Harrington (7-11-3, 3-2 singles) might not be playing the way he was three years ago, but he's still a tough competitor.

Miguel Angel Jiminez (2-7-3, 0-3 singles) had a spectacular European Tour season with three wins and six top 10s. He will surely want to make up for his dreadful record in three previous Cups.

The European team also has four rookie players who are just beginning to make names for themselves.

Ross Fisher, ranked 27th in the world, won once on the European Tour this year and played well ealy in a few majors.

Edoardo Molinari is ranked sixth in the world and won two European Tour events this year.

Francesco Molinari had seven European Tour wins this year and is ranked 33rd in the world. Peter Hanson (42nd in world) won twice on the Euro Tour this year.

The US also has four unknown commodities in it's line up.

Cup rookie Bubba Watson won just one event this year. His distance could be a huge asset, but he'll need to more than just bomb it to contribute to a win.

Jeff Overton, another rookie and the least well-known player on the US team, is ranked 46th in world and fourth on PGA Money list. He's the first player in US team history to make team without winning an PGA Tour event. His season highlights include an 11th at US Open and top 12s in six of his last seven starts prior to the PGA Championships.

Stewart Cink (4-7-4, 1-3 singles) hasn't won since the 2009 British Open, but at 35th in the world he's a solid captain's pick by Corey Pavin.

Finally, rookie Rickie Fowler might be a slightly controversial pick as he's a tour rookie without a tournament win. Anthony Kim, a big part of the 2008 team, might not be fully recovered from his wrist injury. He was the other logical choice, but Pavin's gut told him to take Fowler.

His gut might have seen the 20-year old's match play record - undefeated in four matches at the 2009 Ryder Cup and 3-1 in the 2007 Walker Cup, where he was the youngest player on the team. He's made 16 of 21 cuts this year, including two seconds and five top 10s.

The European team lines up as the better team. But anything can happen in the Ryder Cup.

Maybe that's what makes it so special.

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