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Euros Have Had Shaky Time Too

A disclaimer here at the outset ' this column and $2.87 will get you a cup of java at Starbucks. The past 10 Ryder Cups have proven that nothing is more foolhardy than to try to predict a winner before the first tee is pushed in the ground.
Nonetheless, you read a couple of weeks ago in this corner that the Americans have struggled the past couple of months. Tiger has been sensational, of course. Jim Furyk has been steady. But the other 10 have been up-and-down ' and some a lot more down than up.
Today, its Europe turn to stand up and be dissected. And if youre searching for some nugget that might favor the U.S., read on.
The Euros spent last week playing on home soil, of course, and it is exceptionally difficult to get a good read when the gents from the two sides are not competing at the same tournament. The lads competed in the BMW International in Germany last week, and since primarily Europeans were playing, then it isnt really surprising that a European (Henrik Stenson) won. Look at it as an intramural match ' or, if you will, as world-class competition.
So, with that nervous interjection, here is a look at the 12 who make up Europe:
DAVID HOWELL ' Went through a lackluster late summer in which he missed three cuts in seven events before finishing T4 in the BMW. And, he hadnt finished better than T35 prior to the German tournament. Has fought knee and shoulder injuries this summer.
COLIN MONTGOMERIE ' Missed the cut in three of the four majors this year. That may or may not be telling in the Ryder Cup ' probably not, considering what he has done in past matches. And in his last nine tournaments in Europe, hes finished T14 or better in seven.
JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL ' Only Euro to take a pass on the BMW, even though he was in danger of being passed. But with the exception of the European Tours Open de France early in July when he finished T10, he hasnt had a top 20 berth. He did finish T21 in the U.S. Open and T22 in the WGC-Bridgestone.
HENRIK STENSON ' One of two rookies on the European squad (the U.S. has four), Stenson won the aforementioned BMW. He also finished T14 in the PGA, which was not too shabby. However, in his six previous tournaments, his highest finish was a T22 with one missed cut.
LUKE DONALD ' An emerging stroke-play star that American fans must watch closely. His line reads thus this summer: Barclays T5, U.S. Open T12, Cialis Western T21, Scottish Open T2, British Open T35, Deutsche Bank (Europe) T15, PGA T3, WEC-Bridgestone T8, BMW T6.
SERGIO GARCIA ' Another fellow who bears watching ' after missing the cut in the U.S. Open, Garcia finished T5 in the British Open T3 in the PGA in his last two majors.
PAUL CASEY ' Since U.S. Open when he finished 15th, hes been all over the map won at Gleneagles and 15th in the U.S. Open, but missed the cut at Europes Deutsche Bank, 71st in British Open, T53 International, and missed the cut at the PGA. Then, he finishes T4 at the WGC-Bridgestone before landing at T13 at the BMW. Anyone care to guess what his form will be in a couple of weeks?
PADRAIG HARRINGTON ' This is a man who missed the cut in both the British Open and PGA. However, he has several good efforts this summer, including a T2 at the Booz Allen, a second place in Europes Open de France, and last week a playoff loss at the BMW.
ROBERT KARLSSON ' The other European rookie, Karlsson has won two events in Europe and lost a playoff in another. However, in international competition, he finished T35 in the British Open, T29 in the PGA and T62 in the WGC-Bridgestone.
PAUL MCGINLEY ' A real puzzle here- missed the cut in both the majors in which he played (the U.S. and British Opens). And he would have missed the cut in the WGC-Bridgestone (he finished T66 out of 76 in this no-cut event.) And, he missed the cut last week in the Euro tourney at the BMW. However, it should be mentioned that he has had knee problems this year.
LEE WESTWOOD ' He withdrew at the WGC-Bridgestone after shooting 79-67-74. However, he tied for second at Europes Deutsche Bank and tied for 29th at the PGA. One of captain Ian Woosnams wild-card picks, along with:
DARREN CLARKE ' Theres no use trying to predict where this tortured soul will find himself in his return to play after the tragic death of his wife. However, he swears he will be ready. And dont forget that the Cup will be played in the Republic of Ireland, and Clarke is from Northern Island.
All this analysis, and Woosnam says it is futile. Stroke play is stroke play. When it comes to match play, it's a different competition, he says.
I think we've gone into other matches where the guys have not been playing well and we've come out winning. And I think, you know, it's a different kind of beast all together playing in the Ryder Cup. And it's all about bonding, friendliness, being a team. And that's getting each other excited and playing together and pulling our strengths together to fetch the best out of each player.
And of course, hes right.
Ever see a kid go though the farce of whacking a piata? Thats what its like trying to figure out who should be favored. By reputation, Europe has by far the most illustrious players. And, the Euros will be playing at home, in Ireland. But the Ryder Cup is all about intangibles. And we wont know who has the edge in intangibles until the start play at the K Club.
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