Gleneagles (United Kingdom) (AFP) – On the face of it, Europe are ideally placed to extend their domination over the United States when the 40th staging of the Ryder Cup gets underway at Gleneagles on Friday.
The Europeans have won seven out of the last nine editions and five out of the last six and there has not been an American win on foreign soil since 1993.
Current form shows that four Europeans are in the world top six, including top-ranked Rory McIlroy, while the Americans are without the injured Tiger Woods.
The competition is taking place in Scotland on a course set up to replicate European Tour courses and Europe needs just 14 points to retain the cup. The Americans need 14 1/2 to retain it.
And if that were not enough, Europe have legendary Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson in their corner as a motivational speaker.
Success breeds success in golf, McGinley believes.
“I see the template that s in place,” he said.
“There s reasons we ve been winning these Ryder Cups. We ve come from underdog positions and won The Ryder Cups. So it s not always that we have the best players.
“There s a template and I see my role as enhancing that template, trying to make it better and roll it out again. The fact that I ve ridden shotgun on that twice as a vice captain (2010, 2012) has been huge.”
McIlroy apart, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose are all in the world top six and there is a wealth of past Ryder Cup experience in Lee Westwood, Thomas Bjorn, Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell and Martin Kaymer.
Even two of the three European rookies — Stephen Gallacher and Jamie Donaldson — are hardly unknown quantities at 39 and 38 respectively.
– Lefty is the leader –
On the American side Phil Mickelson will be the leader in the locker room as he makes a record 10th straight Ryder Cup appearance for the United States.
With Tom Watson the oldest ever Ryder Cup captain at 65 and returning to the competition for the first time in 21 years, Mickelson s role with the players is likely to be doubly important.
The five-time major winner believes that the Americans have a winning formula provided they all pull together.
“Certainly we re here without Tiger Woods. We re without Dustin Johnson. We re without Jason Dufner. And we re playing a team that has players like McIlroy and Stenson who have played just incredible golf over the years,” he said.
“I m sure they re going to play every match, and they re going to be extremely tough to beat, whoever gets paired against them.
“Certainly we are the underdog. But rather than focus on what we don t have, what we do have is a great group of 12 guys that really enjoy each other s company, have a lot of fun together, and are hopefully bringing our best games to Scotland, because we are going to need it to make it a tight race and a close one for Sunday.”
The Americans, who last won the Ryder Cup at Valhalla, Kentucky in 2008, will also look to Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson, Bubba Watson and Hunter Mahan for their past experience of the competition.
But much will also depend on the performance of their three rookies, Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed and above all Jordan Spieth, the most exiting emerging star on the US Tour and at 21 by far the youngest player at Gleneagles.
Unlike in the past two times the Ryder Cup has been played on European soil — at the K-Club outside Dublin in 2006 and at Celtic Manor in South Wales in 2010 — the weather is forecast set fair through the weekend with just an isolated shower or two expected.
The Jack Nicklaus designed PGA Centenary Course is expected to play host to 45,000 fans daily as golf s greatest competition is held in Scotland for just the second time, 41 years after Muirfield.