Ryder Cup Rookies 5 on 5

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04 Ryder CupEvery couple of years, one thing is said about the Ryder Cup: the Americans are the favorites ' on paper.
 
And then the Europeans come in like a paper weight and flatten that figurative piece of paper, stifling the roar of the paper lions.
 
Europe has won three of the last four Matches, and has walked with Samuel Ryders cup six of the last nine times the biennial competition has been contested.
 
The Americans still boast many of the top-ranked players in the world ' four of the top 10 on the Official World Golf Ranking; compared to one for their counterparts.
 
But, this time around, the two sides may match up a little more evenly than in the past. Thats because each team has seven players with Ryder Cup experience and five first-timers.
 
It could be a European advantage, because they are accustomed to competing with more rookies than the Americans. Over the last three Ryder Cups, the Europeans have had five, seven and five rookies on their teams, respectively; while the Americans have had three, one and four. The time the U.S. had just one (David Duval) was in 1999 ' probably not a coincidence, that is the only time in the last decade the U.S. has won the event.
 
The last time the Europeans had more experienced players than the U.S. was in 1995, when they had two rookies to the Americans five. Europe won 14 -13 at Oak Hill (theyre playing Oakland Hills this year).
 
Or, it could be an American advantage, because three of their rookies are not true greenhorns. Kenny Perry, Chris DiMarco and Fred Funk have all played in at least one Presidents Cup ' and all were on the U.S. Presidents Cup team last year. The closest comparison the Europeans can draw is that three of their first-timers (Luke Donald, Paul Casey and David Howell) are Walker Cup veterans.
 
Its a toss up, said Golf Channel analyst and six-time European Ryder Cup team member Peter Oosterhuis. I think having played in the Presidents Cup is an obvious benefit, but you are comparing experience with youth and talent. Its very close ' but isnt everything in this event?
 
While both teams have five Ryder Cup rookies, the U.S., in this category, has more experience, in general. Take away the Presidents Cup factor, and the Americans still average 37.4 years of age among their five freshmen. The Europeans average 29 years. None of the five American first-timers are under 30, while four of the five from Europe are in their 20s.
 
That leads to another question: Who is the future of the Ryder Cup for the U.S.?
 
Tiger Woods is the youngest Yank, at 28. Meanwhile, five Europeans are in their 20s, including Sergio Garcia, who is 24 and already making his third Ryder Cup appearance.
 
Including Woods, only three American-born players in their 20s finished inside the top 30 in the final Ryder Cup standings (Charles Howell III and Jonathan Byrd). And Tiger was the only one in the top 20.
 
There was a time when Europe had many of the top-ranked players in the world ' Seve (Ballesteros), Ollie (Jose Maria Olazabal), Woosie (Ian Woosnam), (Bernhard) Langer, (Sandy) Lyle. Now, its almost a rebuilding. It looks very good for the European future, Oosterhuis said.
 
It is surprising that Tiger is the youngest player on the U.S. team. But (Chris) Riley is only 30. And so is (Chad) Campbell. So, the Americans have some young talent as well ' just not as young.
 
Neither U.S. captain Hal Sutton nor European leader Bernhard Langer are overly concerned with the future at this moment. They want to win now. And to do so, both men will stake a large part of their claim for the cup in a quintet of debutantes.
 
I don't think any team is trying to see any young player so that they can win the Ryder Cup ten years from now. I think every captain is trying to pick the guys and hoping that the guys make the team that can help them win that present Ryder Cup, said Sutton.
 
I think they (Europe) have got a lot of young, unseasoned players on their team because their older, seasoned players didn't have the type of last two years that they needed in order to be on the team. They do have a changing of the guard. We have a slight changing of the guard right here. That is just the life we live in. We grow older, we don't play as well and somebody else takes over.
 
Youth has been gradually taking over in Europe. Donald, Casey and Poulter have each recorded a pair of victories over the past two seasons on the European Tour. Levet has also won this year, meaning the five rookies (Howell hasnt won since 1999) have combined for seven tour titles in the last two years.
 
Perry and Campbell are the only winners during the same time frame for the U.S. Perry won three times a year ago, while Campbell won the 2003 Tour Championship and 2004 Bay Hill Invitational. His Bay Hill triumph means he is the only U.S. Ryder Cup rookie to have a win this season. DiMarco and Riley last won in 2002. Funk hasnt held a trophy in six seasons.
 
Both sides have their pluses and minuses when it comes to rating their rookies. But, unlike at the Presidents Cup where everyone plays every session, rookies can be sheltered until the final day if the captain so desires.
 
Ultimately, Ryder Cups are won and lost with the veterans. Thursday, well take an in-depth look at the seven players on each team with Ryder Cup experience.
 
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