Europe will seek to regain the Ryder Cup in Paris this week against a powerful American team boasting nine major winners.
World number two Justin Rose and four-time major winner Rory McIlroy anchor a European squad with five rookies and seven players who are 35 or older.
Tiger Woods, a 14-time major champion back on winning form after a five-year gap, and five-time major champion Phil Mickelson are joined by 10 of the world’s 17 top-ranked players in a strong US line-up at Le Golf National.
The 42nd Ryder Cup gets under way on Friday but how do the teams compare and will home advantage prove key again?
The European team
The US team
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What do the rankings say?
This is the first time in Ryder Cup history all of the world’s top 10 will be competing in the tournament.
Since the biennial tournament was expanded from a Great Britain and Ireland to include all of Europe in 1979, they have gone into just about every match a clear second in terms of rankings, and do so again.
The United States have 11 of the top 20 players in the world – Europe just six.
Ryder Cup veteran Mickelson – playing in a record 12th event but is the visitors’ lowest ranked player at 25 – needed a wildcard to make the team for the first time in his career.
The home side’s lowest ranked player is Denmark’s world number 45 Thorbjorn Olesen, who held on to take the last automatic qualifying spot in compatriot Thomas Bjorn’s team.
Major winners recent form
The Americans boast this year’s US Open and PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka, plus reigning Masters champion Patrick Reed.
Europe have Italy’s Francesco Molinari who claimed the Claret Jug at The Open in July.
Last weekend, England’s Justin Rose secured the overall FedEx Cup title, which determines the season-long US PGA Tour champion, but lost the world number one ranking to American Dustin Johnson.
In Woods, the United States also have the most recent winner after the 42-year-old won the season-ending Tour Championship by two shots to record his first victory in five years.
Rookies v veterans
The Europeans have five Ryder Cup newcomers in Sweden’s Alex Noren, Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen, Spain’s Jon Rahm and England’s Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood.
And in Rose, Molinari, Noren, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia they have seven players aged over 35.
On the other side, the Americans have three rookies – Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau and Tony Finau – and three players over 35 – Woods, Mickelson and Bubba Watson.
Will Europe’s experienced players help balance out the number of rookies in their team or will their age prove to be an issue in a physically and emotionally draining tournament against an American team dominated by players at their peak?
United States struggle away from home
The United States won 17-11 in 2016 at Hazeltine and lead 26-13 with two matches halved in the all-time rivalry.
But since the event expanded from Britain and Ireland only, the European side leads 10-8 with one drawn.
This will be only the second time the European home match is staged outside of Britain and Ireland after Valderrama in Spain hosted the 1997 event.
The last time an American side won away from home was at The Belfry in England in 1993.
Le Golf National factor
Will ‘home’ advantage help again this year as Garcia looks to become Europe’s top points scorer?
- 3 – Members of the US team to have played in a competition at the course – Bubba Watson missed the cut in 2011, as did Brooks Koepka in 2013, while Justin Thomas finished joint eighth at this year’s French Open
- 2½ – Number of points Sergio Garcia needs to equal Sir Nick Faldo’s record points tally of 25 for Europe
- 2 – European players Alex Noren and Tommy Fleetwood have both won the French Open at Le Golf National
- 1 – Tyrrell Hatton is the only member of the European team not to record a top-10 finish at the course
Woods and Mickelson factor
They are two all-time greats of the game but how do their Ryder Cup records stack up?
- 0 – Neither Woods or Mickelson have been on the winning side in Europe
- ½ – Points won from four matches on Woods’ last appearance in 2012
- 1 – Number of times Woods has been on the winning side in seven appearances
- 5 – Number of points won by Woods in seven singles matches
- 12 – Mickelson is set to break the Ryder Cup appearances record he currently shares with Faldo. The 48-year-old has played in every contest since 1995
- 20 – Number of defeats suffered by Mickelson, a record he shares with US captain Jim Furyk
- 21½ – Points won by Mickelson, two behind US record holder Billy Casper
- 45 – Mickelson is one match short of equalling Sir Nick Faldo’s all-time record for the most matches played
Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/golf/45591171