Ryder Cup 2014: Is Tom Watson the winning edge for US team in Scotland?

Ryder Cup 2014: Europe's team has lots of experience in international competition. The Americans, without Tiger Woods, aren't expected to win. But can their veteran captain, Tom Watson, help close the gap?

Matt Dunham/AP
US team captain Tom Watson and Phil Mickelson, left, stand on the 11th tee box during a practice round ahead of the Ryder Cup golf tournament at Gleneagles, Scotland, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014.

The 40th Ryder Cup matches, a team competition held every other year between professional golfers from the United States and the European Union, takes place this weekend at the Gleneagles golf resort in Scotland.

Tom Watson, the United States' Ryder Cup captain for a second time, won five British Open championships during his Hall of Fame career, three of them in Scotland.

Despite contesting the matches on European soil this weekend, European captain Paul McGinley is wary of a Watson effect for the American side.

"As great as Tom's achievements have been on the golf course, I'm sure he's proud to be here as captain in a country that's been so good to him in terms of his major championship wins," McGinley told CyberGolf.com on Monday.

In addition to being a successful captain of the US side in 1993, Watson also enjoyed success as a Ryder Cup player, notching 10 wins in 15 matches from 1979 through 1989.

Golfweek.com's Jeff Babineau points out an interesting Ryder Cup statistic.

A good captain can make a difference, a point both Watson and McGinley acknowledged on Monday. Remember, this is an event in which 10 of the last 15 meetings have been decided by two points or less.

On the American side, Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson have the most Ryder Cup experience. Beginning in 1995, Mickelson has compiled a record of 14 wins, 18 losses, and six halves in fourball, foursome, and singles competition. Furyk participated in his first Ryder Cup in 1997 and has a 9-17-4 record.

Rickie Fowler, who finished second at the US and British Opens, and the PGA Championship this year, returns for his second Ryder Cup, along with Keegan Bradley. Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Webb Simpson, Masters champ Bubba Watson, Hunter Mahan, Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth, and Jimmy Walker round out the US team.

The European side is led by current British Open and PGA champion Rory McIlroy, the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world. He's joined by current US Open champ Martin Kaymer of Germany and a number of European Ryder Cup veterans, including Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Thomas Bjorn, Graeme McDowell, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, and Ian Poulter. Rookies Jamie Donaldson, Stephen Gallacher, and Frenchman Victor Dubuisson make up the rest of Team Europe.

Friday morning, the Ryder Cup gets underway with fourball matches. Each squad will send out four two-man teams. Golflink.com explains fourball this way:

All four players play their own ball. The team whose player has the lowest score wins the hole. If the teams tie, they halve the hole. The team that wins the match receives one point, and if the teams tie they each get 1/2 point.

Then, Friday afternoon, two-man teams will be sent out for foursome competition, described by Golflink.com:

Teammates alternate tee shots. Player 'A' tees off on odd-numbered holes, and Player 'B' tees off on even-numbered holes. After the tee shot, teammates alternate shots until completion of the hole.

Friday's format is repeated on Saturday. Then, on Sunday, a dozen singles matches will be contested, where the player with the lowest score wins the hole. If both players have the same score, the hole is halved. A total of 28 points is up for grabs this weekend. The US needs 14 1/2 points to bring the Ryder Cup back across the Atlantic Ocean.

You can watch the Ryder Cup live, beginning at 2:30 a.m. Eastern time Friday, on the Golf Channel. Action from Gleneagles will also be streamed live on RyderCup.com.

Saturday, starting at 3 a.m. Eastern, the Ryder Cup's second day of live action will be televised by NBC. Sunday's singles competition will also be broadcast on NBC, beginning at 7 a.m. Eastern.

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