For the Americans, Phil Mickelson. For the Europeans, Padraig Harrington.
Both are three-time major champions ' heck, Harrington has won the last two, his victories in the British Open and PGA Championship making him the hottest player on the planet, at least until Tiger Woods recovers from knee surgery.
Just dont look for either of these guys to provide stirring words or wear their emotions on their sleeves at Valhalla Golf Club.
Hopefully Ill lead by example this week and by approaching the game the right way, Harrington said. Not allowing myself to get too high or too low in the course of matches.
Win one for the Gipper, thats not.
On an American team that has six rookies but no Woods, Mickelson would seem the logical candidate to carry the red, white and blue load into golfs grandest team event.
But Lefty took a pass on any sort of leadership role. Instead, he deferred to U.S. captain Paul Azinger, who wont swing the club at all this weekend.
My only responsibility is to play well, Mickelson said. I think Captain Azinger has been a wonderful leader for us. Hes been a great captain and given us great direction.
Wheres Monty when you need him?
Colin Montgomerie was the type of guy who thrived in this format, for reasons that still seem a bit fuzzy. The shots that befuddled him in his fruitless pursuit of a major title always seemed to go right when the Ryder Cup was on the line. Teammates that found him persnickety and pompous in the week-to-week grind of tournament play rallied around him when they were all working toward the same goal.
But Montgomerie wasnt chosen for this European team, which leaves Sergio Garcia as the most likely emotional leader for the defending champs.
Thats just fine with Harrington.
I dont get the highs and lows that maybe other guys get, he said. I tend to keep it nice and solid and consistent.
Harringtons Ryder Cup record is rather unimpressive (7-8-2) but he did come through big time for the Europeans in 2004. Paired with Montgomerie in the first match at Oakland Hills, they took on the American dream team of Woods and Mickelson.
When Mickelson pushed his drive at No. 18 up against a fence, the Europeans finished off an upset that set the tone for the entire match. The visitors romped to their biggest win ever on American soil, and matched their margin two years ago at the K Club in Harringtons homeland.
Mickelsons Ryder Cup record is even worse than Harringtons (9-12-4). Even so, he claims to relish the experience as he heads into his seventh appearance.
The week becomes a week where friendships are formed and memories occur that last a lifetime, he said. When youre playing in them, you dont realize thats the case, but now that Ive played in six ' this is my seventh Ryder Cup ' I look back at all my previous ones. Even though weve lost, weve had so many great memories from those weeks. Thats what I look forward to the most, getting to know the guys and hanging out with all the guys and having a fun week.
Mickelson considers the Americans a clear underdog, even with the home-course advantage.
I dont feel theres a question about that, he said. But it doesnt mean we cant come out and play well, with the help of the crowd and with a golf course thats very well suited for many of our players, have a great week and possibly come out on top.
For those who think the Americans are lugging too much emotional baggage, having lost five of the last six matches to Europe, including three straight, Mickelson points to a more impressive record in golfs other major team event, the Presidents Cup.
Facing the rest of the world in alternate years, the U.S. has lost once in seven matches.
I feel like the Presidents Cup has given us team competitions, team experiences, that weve done very well and succeeded in, Mickelson said. I dont know why we havent been able to play at the same level in the Ryder Cup.
Harrington is hoping to put the finishing touches on a magical season. After Woods won the U.S. Open, then headed off to have surgery on an ailing knee, the Irishman stepped in to fill the void as the worlds top player.
First, he defended his title at the British. Then, a follow-up in the PGA Championship. Over the last six majors, hes won half the time.
It would be fair to say Im a late bloomer and Im coming into the prime of my career at 37 years of age, he said. Ive been more focused on going out there and winning major tournaments by giving myself a chance in a number of them. I do expect to be there in the future and win some more.
As for his more immediate plans, Harrington expects to be paired up in at least one of his Ryder Cup matches with Graeme McDowell. The first-day pairings will be revealed Thursday night at the opening ceremony, though European captain Nick Faldo might have tipped his hand a bit when a British photographer caught his notebook jottings with a zoom lens.
Faldo had the initials RK and PH listed together, which would indicate hes considering matching Robert Karlsson with Harrington.
I dont think it would take any genius to figure out that I will play with the other Irishman on the team at some stage this week, Harrington said. When and where it happens is not clear as of yet. But Graeme is playing really nice golf and I will be keen to tee it up with him at some stage and get out there and play. Hes a really solid player and it looks like his mind is right and hes ready to go this week.
With Woods watching from home, does Harrington feel like hes become the sort of player that rivals fear?
I would expect that guys, if they tee is up against me, will believe they are in for a tough game, Harrington said. I dont think guys are scared, no.
The Americans once had players such as Lanny Wadkins and Raymond Floyd, whose emotional play would fire up their teammates in the Ryder Cup.
But now, they are struggling to find someone who can take over their leadership role that, even for Woods, never seemed to come comfortably.
Dont expect Mickelson to take it on now.