CARDIFF, Wales – The U.S. and Europe Ryder Cup captains predicted Monday the outcome could hinge on a single putt on the final day.
The U.S team arrived in Wales for the three-day match, which starts Friday at Celtic Manor. The Americans are defending the trophy following their home win in Valhalla in 2008. The U.S. hasn’t won the Ryder Cup on foreign soil since 1993.
“It’s going to be very competitive. It’s going to come down to who makes the putts,” U.S. captain Corey Pavin said. “It’s hard to win over here.”
European captain Colin Montgomerie agreed.
“These matches will be very closely contested. On this occasion, I think it will come down to a Sunday putt,” the Scot said. “But that’s the beauty of the Ryder Cup, the closeness of it over the last few years.”
Pavin’s team includes four players – Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk – who are in the world’s top five, but Europe is considered the favorite.
The No. 1-ranked Woods has a mediocre Ryder Cup record, winning 11 points from a possible 25, and only made the U.S. team as one of Pavin’s four captain’s picks.
“I have always said that Tiger is the best player in the world and the best player to have ever played the game,” Montgomerie said. “Of course, he would be in my team. It’s the first time Tiger will have played in Wales as a professional. We’re delighted he’s here.”
There has some debate whether Woods, who hasn’t won a tournament in 2010, will play the maximum of five matches this week, but Pavin did not give much away about his plans.
“I have thought about it a lot. … I have a pretty good idea of the direction I’d like to go,” Pavin said. “Every time Tiger plays in the Ryder Cup, he wants to win. All the guys want to come out and play their best golf and retain the trophy. There isn’t one player different to the other.”
Pavin held the Ryder Cup trophy aloft as he posed for pictures at the foot of the aircraft steps after the team’s charter plane landed in Cardiff. He was soon joined by his players, who stood in six pairs behind him wearing beige jackets.
Woods, one of four players wearing dark sunglasses, stood alongside Steve Stricker as Montgomerie waited to offer an official welcome.
Overcast conditions greeted the U.S. team and rain is forecast for Friday and over the weekend.
“Everyone has to play in the rain. We have a lot of guys on the team who actually enjoy playing in the rain, believe it or not,” said Pavin, who played in three Ryder Cups.
“I think our guys can embrace any kind of weather. I played the Ryder Cup in poor weather. You don’t really notice it so much, you’re just focused on winning your matches.”
Pavin said he and his players would rest Monday following their overnight flight, with a first practice session scheduled for Tuesday.