Salisbury JournalEurope aim to make rankings count (From Salisbury Journal)

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Europe aim to make rankings count

Salisbury Journal: Rory McIlroy, left, would be a big scalp for the US team (AP) Rory McIlroy, left, would be a big scalp for the US team (AP)

Having four of the world's top five did not do America any good in the Ryder Cup two years ago. Now it is Europe's turn to try to show it can make the difference.

At Celtic Manor 14-major Tiger Woods, four-major Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker and ex-US Open champion Jim Furyk - fresh from winning £7million for one week's work - could not stop Colin Montgomerie's men winning back the cherished gold trophy.

In Chicago, Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Justin Rose - only two majors between them, both to the phenomenal 23-year-old Northern Irishman - have the chance to write another chapter in an amazing success story.

Europe, now under Jose Maria Olazabal's captaincy and with the late and great Seve Ballesteros their inspiration, have won four of the last five and six of the last eight matches.

And the main reason why? As Paul Azinger, America's successful 2008 captain, said: "We want to win - it's on our mind and it's in our head - but for Europeans the Ryder Cup is in their heart and in their blood. It's their passion."

Azinger did a wonderful job in negating that in Louisville, but with opposite number Nick Faldo's leadership constantly questioned the fact remained that his side's biggest stars - Padraig Harrington, winner of the previous two majors, Westwood and Sergio Garcia - combined for a paltry two points all week.

McIlroy is the undisputed world number one now and will be expected to contribute far more than two points himself, almost certainly in partnership again with 2010 match-winner Graeme McDowell on the opening two days.

"I don't think I have a bullseye on my back," McIlroy insisted, downplaying his role. "I think it's a huge compliment that people are saying they want to beat me and whatever. Whoever wants to take me on, they can take me on."

American captain Davis Love believes - probably hopes - the match will be decided by putting. His side might have the edge there on paper and with home advantage as well it will take a mighty effort for Europe to win for only the fourth time ever on American soil.

"A chip-in here or there maybe, but it generally comes down to which team holes the most putts," he said.

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