Stan Hey: 6-5 against

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The Independent Online

It is all quiet now but from Monday onwards there will be a palpable rise in the noise as the countdown begins to the Ryder Cup at the Valhalla Course, Louisville, next Friday. Expect fanfares, rabid speculation and a tidal wave of betting.

The European team has won three on the trot and up to a fortnight ago was the favourite with backers. Then came "Poultergate", when Ian dodged the last qualifying tournament to play in America. There were unproven allegations that he'd been assured of his place and was duly a wild-card pick by captain Nick Faldo, excluding the popular Darren Clarke. Cue misgivings about team harmony.

Europe are still favourites, 8-11 in most lists, with the best current odds being 11-10 outright at Paddy Power – are they laying Europe? The Americans are around the 6-5/5-4 mark, with Skybet offering 13-10. So it is tighter than predicted. America are on home soil, a tricky, steamy Kentucky course. They are without Tiger Woods, but might play better out of his shadow.

Faldo will expect Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood (14 Cup points each), and Padraig Harrington to score heavily. And Poulter must deliver. Europe's strength is the fourball/foursomes of the first two days but three strong pairings have been lost with the absence of Clarke, Luke Donald and Colin Montgomerie. Will Faldo risk rookie Oliver Wilson or ice him?

I'm edging towards the Yanks – £10 (at 13-10) with a fiver each-way on Ben Curtis as top US scorer (16-1 generally), and £10 on Henrik Stenson (8-1 totesport, Ladbrokes) as Europe's leading scorer. And a million goes on Wagner providing the television theme.

* All sorts of first-week injuries, notably to Patriots' QB Tom Brady, have confused the chase for the Super Bowl, so a re-think may be needed. The US Open tennis was a washout.

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