Gentlemen's duel

Friday, September 22, 2006
U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman, left, introduced his team as members of the European squad applauded during the opening ceremony Thursday at The K Club in Straffan, Ireland. (Associated Press)

STRAFFAN, Ireland -- As if recent history weren't enough, Europe showed just how tight a grip it has on the Ryder Cup.

U.S. captain Tom Lehman gathered his team on the 10th tee Thursday morning for the official team photo, which lately is the closest the Americans ever get to posing with the trophy.

The Europeans didn't even allow them that luxury at The K Club.

Whether it was a harmless oversight or not-so-subtle message about the true ownership of the shiny gold chalice, captain Ian Woosnam neglected to turn over the trophy even for 15 minutes of a photo opportunity. It was the first time since 1985 -- coincidentally, the start of European dominance in these matches -- that the 17-inch trophy was not part of the official team photo.

All Lehman cares about is posing with it Sunday.

After four days of glitz and galas, topped off by an opening ceremony that celebrated Ireland's biggest sporting event, the Ryder Cup was set to begin this morning with both sides sending out their best teams.

Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk face Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington in the opening fourball match, a sign that both captains were intent on taking early control.

Two years ago at Oakland Hills, Montgomerie and Harrington beat Woods and Phil Mickelson in a match that set the tone for Europe's largest victory ever, 18 1/2-9 1/2.

Ryder Cup glance

* Venue: The K Club (Palmer Course), Straffan, Ireland.

* Format: Four foursomes (alternate shot) and four fourballs (better ball) matches each of the first two days. Twelve 18-hole singles matches on Sunday. One point for each victory, a half-point for a tie. Europe needs only 14 points to retain the Ryder Cup.

* U.S. team: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Chad Campbell, David Toms, Chris DiMarco, Vaughn Taylor, J.J. Henry, Zach Johnson, Brett Wetterich, Stewart Cink, Scott Verplank.

* European team: Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, David Howell, Colin Montgomerie, Robert Karlsson, Padraig Harrington, Paul Casey, Paul McGinley, Jose Maria Olazabal, Darren Clarke, Lee Westwood.

* Captains: Tom Lehman (United States), Ian Woosnam (Europe).

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