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Still Teed Off About Superior European Golfers? Get Up Early to Watch Ryder Cup Rematch
September 25, 2014  | By Gerald Jordan

Package these symbols of what pop culture implies as elite: the expensive, country club sport of golf and the high-toned seemingly sophisticated continent of Europe.

That alone should give a late-, late-, late-night TV audience enough incentive to launch a hate fest for the European Ryder Cup team. Nothing serious or morally depraved; it’s the biennial Ryder Cup, and Team Europe is the prohibitive favorite to defeat an American squad that still is stunned from a last-day collapse two years ago at Medinah Country Club in suburban Chicago. Americans want retribution.

The 40th iteration of this competition, which shatters golf’s sotto voce tradition by attracting raucous crowds more suitable for soccer stadiums than on the links, will get underway in the wee hours of Thursday night into Friday. Depending upon whether the neighborhood taproom has the Golf Channel and unrestricted closing hours, fans can see the Ryder Cup tee off at 2:30 a.m. EDT Friday.

Do it and try to get to work Friday morning. I dare you.

Hoopla surrounding the Europeans can be traced to the presence of Rory McIlroy (right), a 25-year-old, ruddy-cheeked Northern Irish lad who is No. 1 in the world rankings, and has two major championship trophies from this year alone. If he falters, the Europeans have support from No. 3 Sergio Garcia, No. 5 Henrik Stenson, No. 6 Justin Rose…

You get the picture.

The underdog status accorded to the Americans can be traced to transition. Two of the best are not enjoying their best years: 44-year-old Phil Mickelson is on the team as a captain’s pick, and the nearly 39-year-old Tiger Woods, plagued by a bad back this year, isn’t on the team. With Mickelson’s five major championships and Woods’ 14, that’s a lot of intimidation that the U.S. team, in the case of Woods, could have used.

The Europeans’ four of the top six world-ranked players is interrupted only by Australian Adam Scott at No. 2 and the occasional U.S. player among the top 10. Translated to ’merican, that’s like being the only football team in the Southeastern Conference West division not ranked in the U.S. top 17.

Oh, let’s just pile it on. The Cup this year will be played in Gleneagles, Scotland. And even though it’s inland, the fact that the North Sea is closer to Gleneagles than, say, Myrtle Beach, means that sweater sales will be off the charts. And sweaters mean jackets. And jackets mean windsuits. And windsuits mean cold hands. And smacking a steel-shaft club into a rock-hard golf ball isn’t easy to do with cold hands, especially if you didn’t grow up doing so. Advantage McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and the rest of the Europeans.

The Americans, however, aren’t exactly devoid of talent.

Young Jordan Spieth, who just turned 21 in July, could lead a charge of young guns, including Keegan Bradley, a major championship winner and Ryder Cup veteran, and Ricky Fowler (No. 10). Fowler is entertaining, so much so that he had USA sculpted into his haircut. Why not? He’s having an oddly hot year – top five finishes in all the majors. But if you care to dive deeply into golfdom, it’s always fun to cheer on Matt Kuchar (No. 9), Webb Simpson and Zach Johnson.

Bubba Watson (No. 7), with his two Masters championships, could conquer Gleneagles with his towering drives. Then again, the Scottish air (pun definitely attempted) could foil high hitters.

U.S. captain Tom Watson (left), who will decide which golfers should be paired for competition, reveres the sport and is trying to pass along that spirit to this underdog team. If he’s able to steer the squad to an upset, it’ll be one for the books, maybe even better than the 2012 unraveling (there was no prophecy) at Medinah.

The fun starts Friday and continues through Sunday. Unspoiler alert: If the U.S. team gets hot, tune in NBC overnight Saturday or beginning at 5 a.m. ET Sunday for the final round.

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