Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

James Lawton: Tiger Woods versus Rory McIlroy could be Ryder Cup's biggest ever duel

Europe's Rory McIlroy takes his pictures with some fans during a practice round at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
USA's Tiger Woods, left, laughs as he talks to Fred Couples at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Rory McIlroy of Europe during the fourth preview day of The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Miguel Angel Jimenez of Europe watches the play during the fourth preview day of The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Rory McIlroy of Europe signs autographs for fans during a practice round during the fourth preview day of The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Graeme McDowell of Europe plays a bunker shot during a practice round during the fourth preview day of The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Ian Poulter of Europe is introduced to the crowd during the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: European Team captain Jose Maria Olazabal reacts to a tribute to Seve Ballesteros at the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Hollywood star Justin Timberlake speaks to the crowd during the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: European Team captain Jose Maria Olazabal wipes reacts to a tribute to Seve Ballesteros at the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Donald Trump attends the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: European Team captain Jose Maria Olazabal speaks to the crowd at the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Rory McIlroy of Europe waves to the crowd at the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell of Europe walk to the stage during the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: A general view of the teams on stage during the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: (L-R) European Team captain Jose Maria Olazabal (L) waits on stage with his team at the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Tiger Woods of the USA walks to the stage during the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Singer Joshua Ledet performs during the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Hollywood star Justin Timberlake takes to the stage during the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Phil Mickelson of the USA walks to the stage during the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Miguel Angel Jimenez of Europe attends the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy of Europe shae hands during the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Tiger Woods of the USA waits on the practice ground during the fourth preview day of The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: L-R: Marian Lawrie, Katie Poulter, Laurae Westwood, Alison Clarke, Graeme McDowell's partner Kristin Stape during the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: European Team captain Jose Maria Olazabal with the players wives and partners during the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Ian Poulter of Europe plays off the 17th tee during the fourth preview day of The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Tiger Woods of the USA autographs a flag during a practice round during the fourth preview day of The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Ian Poulter of Europe
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Phil Mickelson of the USA reaches for a golf ball during a practice round during the fourth preview day of The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Tiger Woods golf bag is seen during a practice round during the fourth preview day of The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Fans wait for autographs during a practice round during the fourth preview day of The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: A Team Europe supporter is seen on the golf course during the fourth preview day of The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: A fan holds a Phil Mickelson sign during a practice round during the fourth preview day of The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Phil Mickelson of the USA hits a shot during a practice round during the fourth preview day of The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Team Europe supporters are seen on the golf course during the fourth preview day of The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Tiger Woods of the United States is introduced during the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Graeme McDowell of Europe waves to the crowd at the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Kristin Stape (L) and Kate Rose attend the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Laurae Westwood attends the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Ally McGinley attends the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Donald Trump and his wife Melania attend the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Paul Lawrie's wife Marian Lawrie before the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: USA team players wives and partners walk in during the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Valentina Molinari attends the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Ian Poulter of Europe and his wife Katie Poulter walk in during the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Kate Rose attends the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Sanna Hanson attends the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Peter Hanson of Europe poses with his wife Sanna after the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Justin Rose of Europe walks with his wife Kate to the stage at the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Jordin Sparks sings the national anthem as Davis Love III and Keegan Bradley of the USA look on during the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Graeme McDowell of Europe poses with his girlfriend Kristin Stape after the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Matt Kuchar of the USA with his wife Sybi Kuchar during the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Keegan Bradley of the USA with his partner Jillian Stacey during the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Phil Mickelson' wife Amy Mickelson acknowledges the applause during the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Webb Simpson of the USA and his wife Dowd attend the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 27: Diane Donald and Pernilla Bjorn attend the Opening Ceremony for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 27, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
ROSEMONT, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Jose Maria Olazabal and Davis Love III with Justin Timberlake during the 39th Ryder Cup gala at Akoo Theatre at Rosemont on September 26, 2012 in Rosemont, Illinois. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Rory McIlroy of Europe signs autographs for spectators during the third preview day of The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Golf Club on September 26, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
ROSEMONT, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Rory McIlroy tallks with Justin Timberlake during the 39th Ryder Cup Gala at Akoo Theatre at Rosemont on September 26, 2012 in Rosemont, Illinois. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
ROSEMONT, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Jose Maria Olazabal and Davis Love III with Justin Timberlake during the 39th Ryder Cup gala at Akoo Theatre at Rosemont on September 26, 2012 in Rosemont, Illinois. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
ROSEMONT, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Tiger Woods of the USA tallks with Justin Timberlake during the 39th Ryder Cup gala at Akoo Theatre at Rosemont on September 26, 2012 in Rosemont, Illinois. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
ROSEMONT, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Phil Mickelson of the USA signs autographs for fans outside the 39th Ryder Cup gala at Akoo Theatre at Rosemont on September 26, 2012 in Rosemont, Illinois. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
ROSEMONT, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: The European team players pose for a photograph with their wives and partners prior to the 39th Ryder Cup gala>> at Akoo Theatre at Rosemont on September 26, 2012 in Rosemont, Illinois. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
ROSEMONT, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: European Team captain Jose Maria Olazabal poses for a photograph with the European players wives and partners prior to the 39th Ryder Cup gala>> at Akoo Theatre at Rosemont on September 26, 2012 in Rosemont, Illinois. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Francesco Molinari of Europe lines up a shot with his caddie Jason Hempleman during the third preview day of The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Golf Club on September 26, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy of Europe walk with their caddies during the third preview day of The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Golf Club on September 26, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: (L-R) Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley, Jim McLean, Zach Johnson and Phil Mickelson of the USA walk off a tee box during the third preview day of The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Golf Club on September 26, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Europe's Rory McIlroy reacts to a putt on the seventh hole during a practice round at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: A USA spectator watches the action during the third preview day of The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Golf Club on September 26, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: A USA spectator takes photos during the third preview day of The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Golf Club on September 26, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: British fans watch the action during the third preview day of The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Golf Club on September 26, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Tiger Woods of the United States hits a drive during the third preview day of The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Golf Club on September 26, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
ROSEMONT, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Tiger Woods of the USA tallks with Justin Timberlake during the 39th Ryder Cup gala at Akoo Theatre at Rosemont on September 26, 2012 in Rosemont, Illinois. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
ROSEMONT, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Tiger Woods of the USA enters the stage during the 39th Ryder Cup gala at Akoo Theatre at Rosemont on September 26, 2012 in Rosemont, Illinois. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
ROSEMONT, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Tiger Woods of the USA enters the stage during the 39th Ryder Cup gala at Akoo Theatre at Rosemont on September 26, 2012 in Rosemont, Illinois. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy of Europe poses for a portrait at the Ryder Cup host hotel prior to the start of the 39th Ryder Cup Gala on September 26, 2012 in Lombard, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird)
LOMBARD, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Rory McIlroy of Europe poses for a portrait at the Ryder Cup host hotel prior to the start of the 39th Ryder Cup Gala on September 26, 2012 in Lombard, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
LOMBARD, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Graeme McDowell of Europe poses with his girlfriend Kristin Stape for a portrait at the Ryder Cup host hotel prior to the start of the 39th Ryder Cup Gala on September 26, 2012 in Lombard, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
LOMBARD, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Justin Rose of Europe poses with his wife Kate for a portrait at the Ryder Cup host hotel prior to the start of the 39th Ryder Cup Gala on September 26, 2012 in Lombard, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
LOMBARD, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Francesco Molinari of Europe poses with his wife Valentina for a portrait at the Ryder Cup host hotel prior to the start of the 39th Ryder Cup Gala on September 26, 2012 in Lombard, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
LOMBARD, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Luke Donald of England of Europe poses with his wife Diane for a portrait at the Ryder Cup host hotel prior to the start of the 39th Ryder Cup Gala on September 26, 2012 in Lombard, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
LOMBARD, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Sergio Garcia (L) and Jose Maria Olazabal of Europe pose for a portrait at the Ryder Cup host hotel prior to the start of the 39th Ryder Cup Gala on September 26, 2012 in Lombard, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
LOMBARD, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Ian Poulter of England of Europe poses with his wife Katie for a portrait at the Ryder Cup host hotel prior to the start of the 39th Ryder Cup Gala on September 26, 2012 in Lombard, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
LOMBARD, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Paul Lawrie of Europe poses with his wife Marian for a portrait at the Ryder Cup host hotel prior to the start of the 39th Ryder Cup Gala on September 26, 2012 in Lombard, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
LOMBARD, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Lee Westwood of Europe poses with his wife Laurae for a portrait at the Ryder Cup host hotel prior to the start of the 39th Ryder Cup Gala on September 26, 2012 in Lombard, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
LOMBARD, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Peter Hanson of Europe poses with his wife Sanna for a portrait at the Ryder Cup host hotel prior to the start of the 39th Ryder Cup Gala on September 26, 2012 in Lombard, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
LOMBARD, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Thomas Bjorn of Europe poses with his wife Pernilla for a portrait at the Ryder Cup host hotel prior to the start of the 39th Ryder Cup Gala on September 26, 2012 in Lombard, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
LOMBARD, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Thomas Bjorn of Europe poses with his wife Pernilla for a portrait at the Ryder Cup host hotel prior to the start of the 39th Ryder Cup Gala on September 26, 2012 in Lombard, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
ROSEMONT, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Steve Stricker of the USA and his wife Nicki Stricker attend the 39th Ryder Cup Gala at Akoo Theatre at Rosemont on September 26, 2012 in Rosemont, Illinois. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
ROSEMONT, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Bubba Watson of the USA and his wife Angie Watson attend the 39th Ryder Cup Gala at Akoo Theatre at Rosemont on September 26, 2012 in Rosemont, Illinois. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
ROSEMONT, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Tiger Woods of the USA attends the 39th Ryder Cup Gala at Akoo Theatre at Rosemont on September 26, 2012 in Rosemont, Illinois. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
ROSEMONT, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Tiger Woods of the USA attends the 39th Ryder Cup Gala at Akoo Theatre at Rosemont on September 26, 2012 in Rosemont, Illinois. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
ROSEMONT, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Phil Mickelson of the USA and his wife Amy Mickelson attend the 39th Ryder Cup Gala at Akoo Theatre at Rosemont on September 26, 2012 in Rosemont, Illinois. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
ROSEMONT, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Phil Mickelson of the USA and his wife Amy Mickelson attend the 39th Ryder Cup Gala at Akoo Theatre at Rosemont on September 26, 2012 in Rosemont, Illinois. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
ROSEMONT, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: USA team captain Davis Love III and his wife Robin Love attend the 39th Ryder Cup Gala at Akoo Theatre at Rosemont on September 26, 2012 in Rosemont, Illinois. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
ROSEMONT, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: USA team captain Davis Love III and his wife Robin Love attend the 39th Ryder Cup Gala at Akoo Theatre at Rosemont on September 26, 2012 in Rosemont, Illinois. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
LOMBARD, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: (L-R) Nicolas Colsaerts, Sergio Garcia, Jose Maria Olazabal, Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer of Europe pose for a portrait at the Ryder Cup host hotel prior to the start of the 39th Ryder Cup Gala on September 26, 2012 in Lombard, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
LOMBARD, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: (L-R) Martin Kaymer, Sergio Garcia and Nicolas Colsaerts of Europe pose for a portrait at the Ryder Cup host hotel prior to the start of the 39th Ryder Cup Gala on September 26, 2012 in Lombard, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
LOMBARD, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Graeme McDowell of Europe (L) poses with his girlfriend Kristin Stape and Rory McIlroy (R) for a portrait at the Ryder Cup host hotel prior to the start of the 39th Ryder Cup Gala on September 26, 2012 in Lombard, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
LOMBARD, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Paul McGinley of Europe poses with his wife Ally for a portrait at the Ryder Cup host hotel prior to the start of the 39th Ryder Cup Gala on September 26, 2012 in Lombard, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
LOMBARD, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Darren Clarke of Europe poses with his wife Alison for a portrait at the Ryder Cup host hotel prior to the start of the 39th Ryder Cup Gala on September 26, 2012 in Lombard, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
LOMBARD, IL - SEPTEMBER 26: Miguel Angel Jimenez of Europe poses with his girlfriend Susanne Styblo for a portrait at the Ryder Cup host hotel prior to the start of the 39th Ryder Cup Gala on September 26, 2012 in Lombard, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 25: Hollywood stars Justin Timberlake (R) and Bill Murray inspect the Ryder Cup on the first tee during the 2012 Ryder Cup Captains & Celebrity Scramble at Medinah Country Golf Club on September 25, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 25: Hollywood star Bill Murray clowns around with the gallery during the 2012 Ryder Cup Captains & Celebrity Scramble at Medinah Country Golf Club on September 25, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 25: Hollywood star Bill Murray hits his tee shot on the second hole during the 2012 Ryder Cup Captains & Celebrity Scramble at Medinah Country Golf Club on September 25, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 25: Hollywood star Bill Murray clowns around with the Ryder Cup on the first tee during the 2012 Ryder Cup Captains & Celebrity Scramble at Medinah Country Golf Club on September 25, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 25: Hollywood star Justin Timberlake watches a tee shot during the 2012 Ryder Cup Captains & Celebrity Scramble at Medinah Country Golf Club on September 25, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
Europe's Lee Westwood flexes his muscle for captain Jose Maria Olazabal at the Ryder Cup PGA golf tournament Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012, at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 25: Golf fans watch the play during a practice round during the second preview day of The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Golf Club on September 25, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 25: Justin Rose and Ian Poulter of Europe during the second preview day of The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Golf Club on September 25, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 25: A detailed shot of the pants worn by Bill Murray during the 2012 Ryder Cup Captains & Celebrity Scramble at Medinah Country Golf Club on September 25, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 25: Hollywood star Bill Murray clowns around with the gallery during the 2012 Ryder Cup Captains & Celebrity Scramble at Medinah Country Golf Club on September 25, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 25: Actress Jessica Biel watches the play of Justin Timberlake during the 2012 Ryder Cup Captains & Celebrity Scramble at Medinah Country Golf Club on September 25, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 25: Caddies joke around over during the European team official photograph during the second preview day of The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Golf Club on September 25, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 25: USA Team captain Davis Love III and Tiger Woods pose with the trophy during the official photocall during the second preview day of The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Golf Club on September 25, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 25: European team captain Jose Maria Olazabal during the second preview day of The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Golf Club on September 25, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 25: Peter Lawrie of Europe signs autographs for spectators during the second preview day of The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Golf Club on September 25, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 25: Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson of the USA share a joke during the second preview day of The 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Golf Club on September 25, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 25: Hollywood star Justin Timberlake watches a tee shot during the 2012 Ryder Cup Captains & Celebrity Scramble at Medinah Country Golf Club on September 25, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 25: Hollywood stars Justin Timberlake and Bill Murray clown around on the second tee during the 2012 Ryder Cup Captains & Celebrity Scramble at Medinah Country Golf Club on September 25, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 25: Actress Jessica Biel (R) watches the play of Justin Timberlake during the 2012 Ryder Cup Captains & Celebrity Scramble at Medinah Country Golf Club on September 25, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 25: Actress Jessica Biel watches the play of Justin Timberlake during the 2012 Ryder Cup Captains & Celebrity Scramble at Medinah Country Golf Club on September 25, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 25: Hollywood stars Justin Timberlake (R) and Bill Murray inspect the Ryder Cup on the first tee during the 2012 Ryder Cup Captains & Celebrity Scramble at Medinah Country Golf Club on September 25, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 25: Hollywood star Bill Murray clowns around with the Ryder Cup on the first tee during the 2012 Ryder Cup Captains & Celebrity Scramble at Medinah Country Golf Club on September 25, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 25: Actress Jessica Biel watches the play of Justin Timberlake during the 2012 Ryder Cup Captains & Celebrity Scramble at Medinah Country Golf Club on September 25, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 25: Hollywood star Bill Murray clowns around with the Ryder Cup on the first tee during the 2012 Ryder Cup Captains & Celebrity Scramble at Medinah Country Golf Club on September 25, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
MEDINAH, IL - SEPTEMBER 25: Actress Jessica Biel watches the play of Justin Timberlake during the 2012 Ryder Cup Captains & Celebrity Scramble at Medinah Country Golf Club on September 25, 2012 in Medinah, Illinois. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

This is not one of the world's greatest golf courses – certainly not Augusta National or Pebble Beach or St Andrews – but it is long, has been set up for a blaze of birdies to excite the American crowd to a high level of patriotism and here in the Fall it is hard to imagine a more beautiful piece of sporting landscape.

At the dawn of the 39th Ryder Cup, flights of Canada geese head south in fly-pasts imperious enough to challenge the ceremonial resources of the United States Air Force.



The foliage, on cue, is an artist's palette of russet and gold, fading green and yellow framed by a huge sky of steel blue.



The autumn air is as uplifting as a glass of the finest champagne.



It also helps that this is the scene for potentially one of the greatest collisions in the history of sport.



Yes, any sport – something indeed which in the peculiar way of golf when it brings so many of its great players together every two years, and so drastically changes its form, can compete in drama and intrigue with anything you care to mention.



Ali-Frazier was more elemental, no doubt, Nadal-Federer on Wimbledon's Centre Court was unforgettable and just a few weeks after Spain this summer retained their European football title with one performance at least for the ages, Usain Bolt recaptured the imagination of the world.



So what, quite, is on the menu here over the next few days?



There is, beyond question, a guarantee of superlative golf action and a relentless edge as the American captain, Davis Love III, calls for another explosion of wild gallery support which helped retard the growth of Europe's ascendency at Kiawah Island in 1991, Brookline in 1999 and Valhalla four years ago – and Jose Maria Olazabal counters by dressing his men in the blue of a Seve Ballesteros rhapsody and says that there could be no better memorial to the great man than some of their best golf.



Yet beyond all the urgings of the captains, and the possibility that the burning hot, and now fabulously rich American rookie Brandt Snedeker could further augment his glory these next few days while confirming his team's status as narrow betting favourites, there is one ultimate prospect that on Sunday would carry this Ryder Cup on to another dimension.



It is the chance that if, as expected, two days of team golf in the foursomes and the fourballs leave the issue much too close to call, both Love III and Olazabal will seek out their best chance of vital momentum at the start of the 12 singles.



What they might just do is create the most anticipated hand-to-hand duel in the history of the contest conceived 85 years ago by old Sam Ryder, the St Albans corn merchant who wanted to sow a new spirit in his favourite game.



The captains might write down the names Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy at the head of their lists, put them into envelopes and then, who knows, slip them into the letter box of sporting legend.



The collision would give McIlroy yet another chance to show that in his youthful inventions, his freedom of spirit, he has indeed surpassed the Tiger more significantly than merely in the rankings of the world game. In a most extraordinary set-piece of vying ambition, and perhaps sharply contrasting levels of self-belief, the 23-year-old from Holywood, Ulster, would have the chance to mark his move to America in the most spectacular fashion.



It wouldn't be so much a coming of age – that happened when he won the US Open and the PGA major titles by the length of nearby Chicago's Michigan Avenue – as a declaration written in the big blue sky. For the Tiger, it would perhaps be a last stand, one in which he might just re-assert some of his old levels of command and push away, at least for a while, the suspicion that beyond the uncertainties of his swing there has been a critical loss of nerve.



If it was a fight, it would choke the traffic around Madison Square Garden. If it was cricket, it would fill every tier of Eden Gardens in Calcutta. If it was football, there would be standing room only in the Nou Camp or San Siro.



That it might happen, by design or just plain old serendipity, is the most alluring promise of this Ryder Cup but then if it disappears in the autumnal mist of tomorrow evening's singles' announcement we will hardly be bereft of a superb competitive edge.



The pressure on even the most brilliantly gifted players will rise sharply, and if history is any guide, maybe uncontrollably.



A veteran virtuoso like Phil Mickelson will be hard pressed to improve one of the tournament's most underwhelming records: played 34, won 11, lost 17, halved 2. Luke Donald, who unlike the American, still labours to make his breakthrough in the majors, has the much superior figures of eight wins, two losses and one halved but this week he was recounting vividly the anxieties that invaded him at Oakland Hills, Detroit, eight years ago.



He arrived in Michigan, he reported, in a mood touching serenity. His drive was in full working order, as was his short game – and blood pressure. He wondered, frankly, what all the fuss about.



"Everything changed," he recalls, "when I walked to the first tee. The nerves really kicked in. I was very surprised how nervous I got, how something happened to me when they announced my name."



He sent his drive 50 yards right of the fairway, a potential disaster rescued by his fourball partner Paul McGinley. "I had a hard time putting the tee in the ground because my knees went wobbly. I was probably the most nervous I've ever been on a golf course. There is nothing like it."



Love is hoping that an American crowd performance as raucous, if not as outrageously unsportsmanlike, as anything we have seen in the past, will help achieve the same kind of anxieties in the European team this morning. He has also been keen to stress the rugged sports tradition of the blue-collar Windy City and its cast list of iconic heroes.



Among such figures, who include the legendary running backs Red Grange and Walter Payton, golf fan Michael Jordan has been elected to No 1 status. "Let us have the spirit of Michael Jordan," Love has said.



No doubt Jordan will provide significant inspiration as he prowls the fairways, but if the American team wanted the ultimate in competitive example they might well have considered the ferocious Chicago Bears line-backer Dick Butkus of the Sixties and Seventies.



The fabled Butkus was such a by-word for controlled aggression that it was said that at the height of the Cold War the CIA might have nominated him as the leading candidate for the job of taking out the Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev. After one visiting NFL team trailed away from Soldier Field following a fearful beating they had another shock when a truck ran into the back of their bus as they arrived at O'Hare Airport. "It's probably Butkus," somebody groaned.



The shirt numbers of Butkus were retired by the Bears and the University of Illinois, an honouring of supreme, muscular effort which provoked a modest response from the man who has spent much of his time campaigning to drive steroids out of American college sport. "People think that when I'm not playing football I walk on all fours and gnaw uncooked red meat. It's not true. I just quite like to win."



Such, anyway, is the level of commitment now being demanded of the American team by their captain and the people of one of the world's sturdiest sports communities. Olazabal merely says: "Play your game – and remember Seve."



It is still another reason to believe that, with or without Woods versus McIlroy, the geese are for a day or two at least heading in the wrong direction.

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