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Ryder Cup 2014: A Primer

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The 2014 Ryder Cup Matches

When: Sept. 26-28

Where: PGA Centenary Course, Gleneagles Hotel, Perthshire, Scotland

Course: 7,262 yards, par 72

All-time record: U.S. leads 25–12–2

After a miracle comeback at the Ryder Cup Matches at Medinah in 2012, Europe is the prohibitive favorite to retain the Cup on home turf, as Tom Watson takes a shorthanded American team to Scotland for the most pressure-packed event in golf. Can a U.S. team led by crafty veteran Phil Mickelson and young gun Rickie Fowler upset a European powerhouse led by four-time major champion Rory McIlroy and Ryder Cup maestro Sergio Garcia?

Athlon talked to two likely keys to the respective teams for their perspective. Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell is a Ryder cup veteran with a match record of 5-5-2 in three Cups, while Fowler will be participating in his second Cup after a record of 0-1-2 in 2012 — but with four top-5 finishes in this year's majors under his stylish white belt.

Team USA

Tom Watson, Captain

Raymond Floyd and Andy North, Vice Captains

Keegan Bradley*

Ryder Cup Record: 3-1-0

Rickie Fowler

Ryder Cup Record: 0-1-2

Jim Furyk

Ryder Cup Record: 9-17-4

Zach Johnson

Ryder Cup Record: 6-4-1

Matt Kuchar

Ryder Cup Record: 3-2-2

Hunter Mahan*

Ryder Cup Record: 3-2-3

Phil Mickelson

Ryder Cup Record: 14-18-6

Patrick Reed

Ryder Cup Record: First appearance

Webb Simpson*

Ryder Cup Record: 2-2

Jordan Spieth

Ryder Cup Record: First appearance

Jimmy Walker

Ryder Cup Record: First appearance

Bubba Watson

Ryder Cup Record: 3-5

*Captain's pick

Team Europe

Paul McGinley, Captain

Des Smyth and Sam Torrance, Vice Captains

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Thomas Bjorn

Ryder Cup Record: 3-2-1

Jamie Donaldson

Ryder Cup Record: First appearance

Victor Dubuisson

Ryder Cup Record: First appearance

Stephen Gallacher*

Ryder Cup Record: First appearance

Sergio Garcia

Ryder Cup Record: 16-8-4

Martin Kaymer

Ryder Cup Record: 3-2

Graeme McDowell

Ryder Cup Record: 5-5-2

Rory McIlroy

Ryder Cup Record: 4-3-2

Ian Poulter*

Ryder Cup Record: 12-3

Justin Rose

Ryder Cup Record: 6-3

Henrik Stenson

Ryder Cup Record: 2-3-2

Lee Westwood*

Ryder Cup Record: 18-13-6

*Captain's pick

Missing in Action

The U.S. team, already an underdog, faces even longer odds with the absence of some key players:

• Tiger Woods

Ryder Cup Record: 13-17-3

Tiger's balky back is his latest physical impediment and caused him to shut it down for the year following a missed cut at the PGA Championship. Despite his lackluster Ryder Cup record, his experience and aura will be missed. Said one PGA Tour pro: "You can’t tell me at least half the European side would not be a little afraid if it came down to a singles match against Tiger on Sunday."

• Dustin Johnson

Ryder Cup Record: 3-3

Johnson is in golf exile, either self-imposed or Tour-imposed, while he deals with "personal challenges." The eight-time winner on Tour was a bright spot for a disappointing U.S. team in 2012, winning his singles match and posting a match record of 3-0. "As one of the longest hitters in the game with an undefeated record of 3-0 at Medinah in 2012, he has clearly been an asset for the United States team," said U.S. captain Tom Watson.

• Jason Dufner

Ryder Cup Record: 3-1

Like Johnson, Dufner was a stalwart for the 2012 U.S. team, posting a 3-1 record and winning his singles match against Peter Hanson amid a U.S. collapse. Dufner couldn't defend his 2013 PGA Championship title due to an arthritic condition in his neck.

Ryder Cup notebook

• Since the U.S. won the Ryder Cup in 1993 with Tom Watson as captain, the Americans have only two victories — in 1999 and 2008. They have lost each of the past two Ryder Cups by the score of 14½ to 13½.

• The Ryder Cup has not been played in Scotland since 1973, when the event was at Muirfield, site of last summer’s British Open. The U.S. won the competition 19-13.

• Jack Nicklaus is confident in Watson's ability to lead the American contingent onto Scottish soil, given Watson's success at the Open Championship, a tournament he won five times. “If you just look at Tom’s history and legacy there, I guess you could say that if they wanted to pick a winner in Scotland to lead them in Scotland, they have done that,’’ Nicklaus said. “The love and embrace Tom will receive in Scotland as a Ryder Cup captain will likely be the most anybody could ever hope for when leading a team on foreign soil.’’

• Watson is the first repeat captain since Nicklaus in 1987 and a departure from a long-followed PGA of America policy that appointed captains who were 45 to 50 years old and still playing on the PGA Tour. “We’ve done things a little bit different this year,’’ PGA of America president Ted Bishop said when Watson was announced as captain.

• The Centenary Course at Gleneagles was designed by Nicklaus in 1993, and Gleneagles has hosted a European Tour event now known as the Johnnie Walker Championship since 1999 — although the event will not be played in 2014. The course has five par-5s, including three on the back nine.