NEWPORT, WALES // Colin Montgomerie, the European captain, is playing down the home-course advantage for this week's Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor. The new course is hardly a traditional seaside links.
Instead, the setting is one that is similar to a typical week on the US PGA Tour, including a towering fountain in front of the 18th green.
"There's a so called home-course advantage that can be used for a home team," Montgomerie said. "On this occasion, I haven't played around with the golf course at all. This golf course is set up in a very, very fair manner to allow the best team to win.
"I don't think it is right to set the course up in any other way than to what it's been designed for. It's a great, great golf course and it's in super condition."
The Americans, who have not won in Europe since 1993, are the clear underdogs against a team that had such a deep pool of talent to choose from that Montgomerie passed over top 10-ranked players Paul Casey and Justin Rose, who won three of his four matches in the last Ryder Cup and had two PGA Tour victories this year.
Montgomerie did not believe his team were the favourites. "On paper, yes. Unfortunately, the Ryder Cup is not played on paper," he said. "This will be very, very close and very competitive, as they always are."
Corey Pavin, the US captain, likes the Americans' chances of taking the cup back home with them on Sunday night, even if almost everyone on this side of the Atlantic believes a European victory is likely with a team that includes two of this year's major champions, Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell.
The US are not exactly barren. Jim Furyk is coming off a US$10 million (Dh36,729m) win at the Tour Championship and Dustin Johnson might have won the PGA Championship if not for his mistake at a bunker.
Tiger Woods, the world No 1, has made far more news off the course, failing to win in a year when a revelations about his personal life led to the break-up of his marriage, and second-ranked Phil Mickelson has not done much since winning the Masters in April. But they are still an imposing duo, even if there is no chance of them playing together as they did during their ill-fated pairing at the 2004 Ryder Cup.
"I like the way Team USA is playing right now," Pavin said. "There's a lot of guys that have been playing well, and that's always a good thing.
"Any captain is going to want his players to be up on their game, but then again, anything can happen during a week of golf. Things can change quickly."
* Associated Press