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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, September 26, 2002

U.S. tries to unite against Europe for Ryder Cup

 •  Early signs point toward an American win

Associated Press

SUTTON COLDFIELD, England — Fierce rivals the other 51 weeks of the year, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson spent their first night at The Belfry staring each other down — not inside the ropes, but on opposite sides of the net.

They were playing ping pong.

"They were having a hell of a go at it," U.S. Ryder Cup captain Curtis Strange said.

No one revealed who had won, but it illustrated what Strange is trying to accomplish in the four days leading to the start of the matches tomorrow: The Ryder Cup is all about team, and the United States has a history of not being nearly as united as Europe.

American players travel in their private planes. They keep their own schedules. For the most part, they keep to themselves.

Perhaps that explains why Europe brings a less talented team to the Ryder Cup and usually walks away with the 14-inch gold trophy. And perhaps no one should be surprised that the key to Europe's success lies in the team matches.

"We tend to feel that way," Colin Montgomerie said yesterday. "We tend to do better in the first series of games, and then America tends to be better in the singles."

Europe has won five of the last eight Ryder Cups. Only once during that time has the United States led after the four series of team matches. That was at Oak Hill in 1995, and Europe went on to win, anyway.

Strange has a good idea of who his teams will be, and they have been playing with each other on the first two days of practice: Woods and Mark Calcavecchia, who practice in the early morning at the majors; Davis Love III and David Duval, who flew to Ireland together last week and shared a house at Mount Juliet.

"I feel very strongly that Friday morning is important to get off to a good start, to get the guys confident, to give them some momentum," Strange said. "If we do well Friday morning, then we'll be all right."