AMERICA, says Joe Whitley – our luck is running out

I would firstly like to clarify that I will not be cheering on the Americans at Medinah. I am a very patriotic European. However, I can’t help feeling we’re in trouble.

I see no way of stopping the steaming locomotive that is American golf. The Americans have a stronger team – more of which later – and are on home soil, but what scares me most is the manner in which we won at Celtic Manor in 2010. We were heavy favourites with better players, home advantage and experience on the course, yet we only won one of the four sessions.

Luckily for us, the one session we did emerge victorious from was unusual in the fact that six points were up for grabs and we claimed five-and-a-half. I can’t help feeling the rain delay saved us.

With that in mind, looking ahead to Medinah scares me. Even though we have four golfers in the world’s top 10, we only have one reigning Major champion. Lee Westwood is out of sorts (yes, he won in Sweden but against quite a weak field), and Luke Donald, usually a matchplay expert, was thrashed 5&4 in his only mano-a-mano encounter this year.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the same, unfortunately, cannot be said. Tiger Woods is on the way back with three wins, Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson hold a Major, and matchplay champ Hunter Mahan is racking up the top 10s.

Then there are Johnsons Zach and Dustin as well as Jason Dufner – three men with a combined five 2012 wins under their belt. In contrast, the European side is looking weak.

I see Scotland’s Paul Lawrie as a massive weakness – quite odd given he’s a Major winner with a short game to die for and he won at the weekend. However, the 1999 Open winner chose to bypass this year’s US Open as he said his game does not suit American courses.

A little reminder: we’re playing in Chicago. If he’s scared of the US Open, how is he going to cope at Medinah? Finally, historically we struggle in America. A total of 19 Ryder Cup matches have been contested on the other side of the Atlantic.

Only three times has the trophy come back with us.
If Paul Lawrie is scared of the US Open, how is he going to cope at Medinah?

EUROPE, says Mark Townsend – we’ll rise to the occasion

WE all know the bookies don’t get much wrong. So here’s a good bet for you, back Europe to retain the Ryder Cup at 11-8.

Here are a few basics. Of the last eight matches we have won six and lost just two. We are two from four of the last four away clashes.

In that period we have battered the Americans by a nine-point margin twice, in 2004 and 2006. We are also the holders.

So you would think that we must have a poor team boarding the plane to Chicago. Not exactly. Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Justin Rose, Paul Lawrie, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Peter Hanson and Martin Kaymer look assured of a place with Francesco Molinari and Ian Poulter currently in the final spots.

You would imagine Sergio Garcia will get one captain’s pick, you then have the luxury of maybe Padraig Harrington or Nicolas Colsaerts.

Of these only the Belgian would be a rookie, so it’s not exactly of team of untried novices.

A few might not be in the form of their lives but I’m not too sure that counts too much in a Ryder Cup. Find a trusted partner and the strains and stresses of the previous months are quickly forgotten and the putts begin to drop. Think Monty, Westwood and Garcia in recent years.

Ten years ago Westwood arrived at The Belfry badly out of sorts, within a day and a half he and Garcia had won all three of their matches. Other pairings that immediately spring to mind are Poulter and Rose (3 out of 4 in 2008) while Donald and Garcia are 100 per cent in four foursomes.

Some of the confidence in the Americans is the fact Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson won  two 2012 Majors but this could be seen as a negative rather than a positive.

In the past, Tiger Woods has come to the end of his competitive season and rarely produced his best in this matchplay arena while Harrington was a long way from his best in 2008 having just won the Open and PGA. Winning Majors elevates you to new levels of interest and is famously tiring.

And then there’s the ace in the pack – Jose Maria Olazabal. The players already respect and admire him; he will be as meticulous as Langer and as passionate as Seve. Like those two, he will win.