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Monday, 23 September 2002
There will be a tangible sense of excitement when The 34th Ryder Cup Matches finally get under way at The De Vere Belfry in the Heart of England this week.

Sam Torrance, the European Captain, and his American counterpart, Curtis Strange, are united with a common aim - that the Matches should be played in a sporting atmosphere and in the best traditions of the game of golf.

It has been a long wait for the action to commence, but there will be a tingle of nervous anticipation when the United States, as guests, strike the first tee shot on Friday morning in front of a sell-out crowd of 35,000 at a venue which holds wonderful memories for Torrance, who is forever remembered as the man who holed the winning putt in 1985 and helped to bring The Ryder Cup back to Europe for the first time in 28 years.

Europe go into The 34th Ryder Cup Matches with four rookies to three on the United States Team. Niclas Fasth, Pierre Fulke, Paul McGinley and Phillip Price all qualified for the biennial contest and now make their long-awaited debuts, as do Americans Stewart Cink, David Toms and Scott Verplank.

Torrance has described the honour of captaining Europe as "the proudest moment of my career" and is relishing the prospect of a thrilling event played in the best possible spirit. He said: "Curtis and I are both traditionalists, which means to say we have a great respect and love for our game and for The Ryder Cup as a sporting contest. We are looking forward to another close and exciting Match."

Strange, who played in five Matches to Torrance's nine, added: "Sam and I have done everything we can do to prepare our Teams for a great competition. At the end of the week I believe the biggest winner will be the game of golf."

The World's Number One golfer, Tiger Woods, arrives at
The De Vere Belfry as the latest champion on The European Tour International Schedule, having captured the World Golf Championships – American Express Championship at Mount Juliet last Sunday.

Six nationalities are represented in a European Team which contains three Irishman, three Swedes, a Dane, an Englishman, a German, a Scot, a Spaniard and a Welshman.

There is an intoxicating blend of youth and experience in both Teams, with Germany's Bernhard Langer surpassing his Captain's achievement on the European side by playing in his tenth Ryder Cup. Langer moves alongside Christy O'Connor and just one behind record holder Nick Faldo, who made 11 appearances.

Sergio Garcia, who alongside Jesper Parnevik was Europe's top points scorer in The 1999 Ryder Cup Matches at Brookline, has admitted he is desperate to get the quest to regain the famous old trophy underway.

The Spaniard, who scored three and a half points out of five in a spectacular debut in America three years ago, said: “I'm glad The Ryder Cup is finally upon us. I can't wait to get started and hopefully bring the Cup back to Europe and leave it here."

The period of waiting has been a strange experience for the European rookies, especially Fulke, who locked down his place in the side 20 months ago by finishing runner-up in the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play. He conceded: "It's been a long time since I qualified so it's been hard to get too excited but now that the Match is closer I am really looking forward to it".

His fellow Swede, Fasth, commented; "I have been looking forward to The Ryder Cup all my life. It is the biggest thing in golf and brings out the best in the best. To play in these Matches is a fantastic feeling."

Let the final word go to Torrance. "The Ryder Cup is the premier event in golf. It's wonderful, the competition, the golf, the passion, everything. It is the ultimate event in golf."

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