Europe, who have won seven out of the past ten Ryder Cups are on "home" soil with a combination of players from six different countries, while the US team has a mixture of the world's best players and some fresh faces to the trans-Atlantic tournament.

 

The US team boasts the world's top three ranked players in Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and Jim Furyk, however they also have four players new to the tournament in JJ Henry, Zach Johnson, Vaughn Taylor and Brett Wetterich who all make their Ryder Cup debuts.

 

As the world's number one, Woods sees himself as one of the senior members of the US team and at just 30 years of age he has the responsibility of setting an example for the Ryder Cup newcomers.

 

"It's disappointing, I haven't won points in the Cups that I have been to for my team," said Woods referring to his 7-11 losing record.

 

"It's frustrating because you feel like you've not only let yourself down but you've let your teammate down as well."

 

The US have only won three out of the past ten Ryder Cups, and team captain Tom Lehman conceded that the Europeans would once again be tough to beat.

 

"I think if you look at it on paper in the history of the last ten Ryder Cups, the European team has been the strongest in this format. I would say that they have to be the favourite here in Ireland," Lehman said.

 

"I wouldn't say they are huge favourites though - both teams are very capable."

 

Europe going for three in a row

 

Four Englishmen, three Irishmen, two Swedes, two Spaniards, and a Scot are about to tee off at a golf course.

 

No, it's not the start of a joke, it's the 2006 Europe Ryder Cup team.

 

With the biennial tournament to be played in Ireland for the first time, the Europeans will be buoyed by the three locals in the team - Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley from Ireland and Darren Clarke from Northern Ireland.

 

Spanish duo Sergio Garcia and
Jose Maria Olazabal at practice

40 year old Spaniard José Maria Olaz?bal returns after his last Ryder Cup appearance in 1999 joining fellow countryman Sergio Garcia, while 43 year old Colin Montgomerie returns for his eighth Cup appearance.

 

Robert Karlsson from Sweden makes his Ryder Cup debut at the age of 37, and is likely to be paired with fellow Swedish debutant in 30 year old Henrik Stenson.

 

Rounding out the European dozen are the four Englishmen - Paul Casey, Luke Donald, David Howell and Lee Westwood.

 

Europe team captain Ian Woosnam, a veteran of eight Ryder Cups as a player, may select his pairings along national lines with the two Spanish and two Swedish players likely to play together in the foursomes and four-ball matches.

 

"We'll try our damnedest to keep the Ryder Cup here for another two years," said Woosnam.

 

"I think it's going to be a very close contest.  It's going to go down to the wire."

 

2006 Europe Ryder Cup Team

Darren Clarke (NIR), Paul Casey (ENG), Luke Donald (ENG), Sergio Garcia (ESP), Padraig Harrington (IRE), David Howell (ENG), Robert Karlsson (SWE), Paul McGinley (IRE), Colin Montgomerie (SCO), José Maria Olaz?bal (ESP), Henrik Stenson (SWE), Lee Westwood (ENG)

 

2006 USA Ryder Cup Team

Chad Campbell, Stewart Cink, Chris Di Marco, Jim Furyk, J.J. Henry, Zach Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Vaughn Taylor, David Toms, Scott Verplank, Brett Wetterich, Tiger Woods