It's showtime: USA vs Europe
Sportsworld's Joanna Gasiorowska previews all the action at the Ryder Cup.
Last Modified: 19 Sep 2008 11:16 GMT

Boxing great Muhammad Ali visits the European team and caddies ahead of the first matches [GALLO/GETTY] 

Louisville, Kentucky is a city of no more than a million people.

But what it lacks in population it more than makes up for in sporting pedigree when this weekend it plays host to one of golf's most eagerly anticipated events.

Louisville is home of the annual Kentucky Derby and home to the famous Louisville slugger baseball bat factory.

Perhaps Louisville is most famous for being the birth place of the ‘Louisville Lip’, the world’s greatest fighter Muhammad Ali who took time to visit the US and European teams in Valhalla yesterday.

Today sports fans will have their eyes on Louisville for a different reason, as it hosts the 37th Ryder Cup.

Golfing showdown

The tournament will feature some of the world’s best golfers, as the European team takes on the Americans over three days of match play competition, hoping to win the Cup for a fourth straight time.

The defending champions are the favourites.

They feature 2008 double major winner Padraig Harrington, and are captained by one of the greatest European golfers ever, Nick Faldo.

Golfing legend

Nick Faldo is the most successful player in Ryder Cup history, and he’s relishing his role in charge in some of the sport’s most colourful characters.

"Well I’m loving it. That’s really obvious" he said, speaking of his role as captain.

"I love being big mother hen to this lot. It’s really great.

"They’re a special bunch" he continued, speaking of his 12-man team of all-stars.

"As Europe has always proved, the team spirit is instantly there.

"I’m learning a lot", he said.

Faldo has a notorious love/hate relationship with the press [GALLO/GETTY]
Captain ego?

Their strength and camaraderie make the European juggernaut seem unstoppable on the surface.

But much has been written about their captain’s ego and how his insatiable desire for absolute power in the locker room may prove the team’s undoing.

In response to probing questions at a press conference Faldo defended himself:

 "I am very confident I won’t damage the team.

"Is that what you asked? I’m very confident I won’t damage the team", he repeated tersely, perhaps frustrated by the insinuation.

Phoenix rising

In Norse mythology Valhalla was where the bravest warriors who died in battle lived forever.

And in a way, the Americans will be looking for that kind of resurrection after nine years without a win.

Paul Azinger, US captain team is looking to the future.

"The past is the past" he said.

"What difference does the past make to us?" he continued.

"Those are different teams, different players, different courses, different years, different times" Azinger reflected.

"We’re looking now to the future. I don’t care about the past. We know what the past is".

Rousing support

Organisers are expecting more than 40 000 fans to attend each day of competition, most of them coming from around the United States.

And there’s a real sense among them, that despite their underdog status, they could well turn the tables on the Europeans and, come Sunday, pull off a victory on home soil.

The reason behind their optimism is two home-grown players.

J.B. Holmes and Kenny Perry carry the weight of crowd expectations [GALLO/GETTY]
Local favourites

Despite the absence of world number one Tiger Woods, who’s out through knee surgery, the buzz in the galleries is over Kentucky’s very own Kenny Perry and big-hitting J.B. Holmes, a player who’s even earned the respect of his rival team’s captain.

"I have never signed so many autographs in my life". Perry said, clearly enjoying the whole experience.

"Now I know what Tiger Woods feels like" he joked.

With the crowd behind them all the way, the feeling is that the Americans will do their very best to make it a tight contest.

And, who knows, they may even give the Europeans the whooping they’ve so dreamed of for the last 9 years.

Friday pairings

Match 1

Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim v Padraig Harrington and Robert Karlsson

Match 2

Justin Leonard and Hunter Mahan v Henrik Stenson and Paul Casey

Match 3 

Stewart Cink and Chad Campbell v Justin Rose and Ian Poulter

Match 4 

Kenny Perry and Jim Furyk v Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia

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