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Golf Tidbits: Should the Americans be worried about the Ryder Cup?

Kevin Currie, Golf Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It might seem silly to ask a question in February about an event scheduled for October, but looking at the results from last week's WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, the question is legitimate.

There were 20 Americans in the Match Play. As a group, they went 13-20, and just one player reached the quarterfinals.

By contrast, their European counterparts had 25 participants, who combined for a 27-25 record. In an American-less final four, the last four standing included Spain's Sergio Garcia, who lost his final two matches to finish fourth overall, along with Englishmen Paul Casey and Ian Poulter, who beat Casey in the 36-hole final.

Obviously this was an individual tournament, whereas the Ryder Cup will feature partners for five of the six sessions, but the difference in results is staggering.

Of course, a mitigating factor is that the event lacked two of the top three players in the world, both of whom happen to be Americans - Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Tiger is a match play phenom, having never lost a match in either the U.S. Junior or U.S. Amateur.

But, as we all know, his participation in the Ryder Cup is up in the air, at best, as he undergoes rehabilitation and attempts to repair his damaged marriage. Tiger missed the last Ryder Cup and the U.S. won, but that was on home soil.

This year, the event will be played at Celtic Manor in Wales. With a potentially inexperienced squad, and the majority of fans rooting against his team, American captain Corey Pavin will need to work some magic to keep the event close. That is the current perception anyway.

While it seems the Europeans are off to a hot start to the season, a closer look reveals that the Americans aren't far behind. Four potential European Ryder Cup players have won this year, while three players on the U.S. team, as it stands today, own victories in 2010.

Assuming Woods does play, the U.S. Ryder Cup team as of today would consist of Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson, Lucas Glover, Cink, Woods, Mickelson, Ben Crane and David Duval.

Johnson, Glover and Crane would be rookies, while the other five have combined for a 25-39-15 record in 19 appearances.

As the European team stands at this point, the hosts would have five rookies and four others that own a combined record of 23-15-9 in 12 appearances. Not a world of difference there.

Additionally, the Americans shouldn't fret just yet because there are six full months for the team to round into form, and during that time nearly all of the important events will dot the PGA Tour schedule.

The European team as currently constructed would need captain Colin Montgomerie to bring Sergio Garcia and Padraig Harrington along as two of his three captain's selections. That will likely change when it comes time to make those selections, as the expectation is that Garcia and Harrington will play their way onto the team.

Either way, it will be intriguing throughout the summer to monitor who is and isn't in line for a spot on the respective teams, and which side has the hotter players entering the biennial event.

Seven or so months out, the nod clearly goes to the Europeans.

MIYAZATO FINALLY BREAKING OUT

The diminutive Ai Miyazato may finally be breaking through the expectations barrier that has confronted her since she burst onto the scene in 2005.

Miyazato crushed the field at the LPGA's Q School that year, winning by a whopping 12 strokes. However, she didn't win a regular tour event until last year.

The 24-year-old from Japan fired a nine-under 63 in the final round last weekend to erase a six-stroke deficit and win for the second time on the LPGA Tour.

Those two wins have helped her climb to No. 4 in the women's world rankings and expand an already impressive resume.

In 2003, she won on the Japan LPGA Tour as an amateur. Miyazato turned pro the following year and promptly collected 11 titles over the next two seasons. She has won 15 times in all on the Japan LPGA Tour, but the two wins on the U.S. LPGA Tour could mean big things for her.

Miyazato already has eight top-15 finishes in 19 starts at the LPGA's four major championships. She followed her first win last summer at the Evian Masters by sharing third place at the Women's British Open.

The LPGA is off for three weeks following this weekend's tournament. When the tour returns, Miyazato will surely be among the favorites as the tour competes in its first major of the season, the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

MINI-TIDBITS

- I was unimpressed with Tiger Woods' statement last week. Not taking questions was a tactical error on his part because, like it or not, he will get asked about the entire situation when he returns to action. One question I would ask, knowing full well it wouldn't get a straight answer, was who was his enabler? He didn't find all those women himself, someone had to be his go- between. Whenever he returns to action, look to see if someone from his inner circle is not there anymore. Who that person might be is anyone's guess.

- Paula Creamer flew all the way to Asia for the LPGA Tour's first two events, but withdrew after one round last week. She was heading for Detroit to have her hand/wrist examined by an expert. Get well soon Paula, the struggling tour needs all of its stars healthy and winning events.

- Christina Kim was among the LPGA players on a shuttle that was involved in a car accident en route to the event in Thailand on Friday. No one was seriously injured, but she tweeted about still feeling jitters nearly an hour after the incident.

- If you want someone to root for on the PGA Tour this year, root for Chris Smith. His wife was killed in an auto accident last summer and his two children were injured in the accident. He is adjusting to life as a single parent of teenagers, but it was his children who talked him into playing last week's Mayakoba Golf Classic, where he missed the cut by a stroke. Hopefully, he can regain his form and pick up his second PGA Tour title.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Kevin Currie at kcurrie@sportsnetwork.com.

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