They had the bigger names and the hottest players. They were home to the guys like Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter and Padraig Harrington. They had rookies that knew how to win and were actually winning. They had a captain that has been in basically every possible Cup scenario, and the matches would be on their soil this year.
But, the question must be asked, is that still the case? Are the Europeans still the heavy favorite in Wales? While the oddsmakers still believe that to be true (they have the Euros at 4/7 with the Yanks at 7/4), you might need to rethink that when you dive into each team.
For instance, since the U.S. Open, an event that European teammate Graeme McDowell successfully took home, the Euros have only won one event on the PGA Tour (the PGA Championship, won by Martin Kaymer). During that same stretch, six Americans that are sporting the red, white and blue this week took home trophies (Steve Stricker, Bubba Watson, Hunter Mahan, Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson and Jim Furyk).
Sure, the easy argument is that a lot of the Europeans, including the Molinari brothers, spend most of their time on the other side of the pond, but a lot of these guys have been playing on the PGA Tour during the home stretch and haven't been able to win.
Along with those simple stats, you have to look at the veterans on the Euro side. Westwood, who if healthy would be a huge asset to Montgomerie, is the biggest question mark of all the 24 players. He hasn't touched a club in competition since he withdrew from the Bridgestone Invitational, and has become such a liability that some people are writing that he should be replaced by Paul Casey.
Along with Westwood, you have Poulter, who won his first event on the PGA Tour in 2010, but has finished in the top 10 just once since then, and that was back in April. Harrington, a captain's pick, has tossed together just as questionable a year. His last five events have included three missed cuts, and he was in danger of missing the cut at an event last week that was without another top-50 player in the world, but snuck in by a shot (and for full disclose, played pretty solid on the weekend).
Rory McIlroy, the young stud who said he'd love to be paired up against Tiger Woods, won his first PGA Tour event this season, but hasn't really come into this event at his strongest. After missing out on the PGA Championship playoff by a shot, McIlroy finished 37th or worse in all three FedEx Cup events he qualified for before failing to make the Tour Championship.
With Furyk leading the way, and a few of the other younger guys continuing their solid year, it's fair to say the Americans might just be the favorite on paper heading into Friday's matches. But, as we've seen in past years, it doesn't matter who you love on paper, just who shows up when the first ball is in the air.
- PGA Tour