Ryder Cup Clash In Wales

If you're up late, or if you have a tough time sleeping, or (most likely) if you're a golf nut, chances are you will be watching when, at 2:30 in the morning our time, an unknown American player strikes the first tee shot of the 38th Ryder Cup matches at Celtic Manor in Wales.

And by that point, every one of the 24 players from the United States and Europe, not to mention captains Corey Pavin and Colin Montgomerie, will be quite happy just to get the darn thing started.

Between the months of jockeying for team spots, the endless speculation about captain's picks and, most of all, the week full of ceremonial pomp that accompanies this incomparable event, it can drive any participant crazy.

Yet there's no denying the electricity the matches produce. More incredible golf shots are struck here, per capita, than at any tournament you could think of. It's amazing how maximum pressure can lead to maximum performance.

But what of the 2010 matches? The plot lines fascinate, regardless of which side you want to win.

America won this thing two years ago at Valhalla without Tiger Woods, and the only reason he's here now is because Pavin really didn't have better alternatives once the top eight automatic qualifiers were settled. An extra week of practice might help, but Pavin has already indicated that he'll bench Tiger (who actually has a losing Ryder Cup record) if he's not at optimum level.

This means the other U.S. veterans - Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Stewart Cink, Hunter Mahan and Steve Stricker, all of whom were at Valhalla - must be ready to lead. Zach Johnson is counted on, too, as a steady, even-keeled presence.

The Yanks have five Ryder Cup first-timers. Dustin Johnson is playing best and has moved past his major traumas. Bubba Watson possesses ungodly length, and he could pair with pal Rickie Fowler, at 22 the youngest team member. Jeff Overton might not see much action, but Matt Kuchar, the steadiest player on the PGA Tour this year, could play five matches.

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