The Ryder Cup: United States

Mark O'Meara passes judgement on his fellow high-fliers in the Kite team
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Tiger Woods

Age: 21. World ranking: 2. Majors: 1.

Career wins: 7. Ryder Cup: debut.

THE youngest Masters champion and world No 1, and the fastest-earning professional golfer ever, both on and off the course. Has not won since July, which could amount to a slump for someone who won seven times in his first 10 months as a pro. Longest hitter in world golf, but will need to rein back at Valderrama.

O'Meara's verdict: What can you say? Tiger is a powerful player but yet he has tremendous touch. He has the all-round game of the future, with power and technique, but he's also a wonderful putter and he knows how to win.

Justin Leonard

Age: 25. World ranking: 11. Majors: 1.

Career wins: 3. Ryder Cup: Debut.

FORMER US Amateur champion and star performer in the Walker Cup. Quickly established himself and produced a wonderful final round at Royal Troon to become the youngest Open champion since Ballesteros in 1979. Immaculate young man who vacuums in straight lines and separates his socks by colour but rarely lets his sense of humour emerge from under his baseball cap on the course.

O'Meara's verdict: Justin is the same way as Tom, if not quite as powerful a hitter. Very straight, very methodical, good putter, good short game, good thinker. Manages his game very well.

Tom Lehman

Age: 38. World ranking: 5. Majors: 1.

Career wins: 5. Ryder Cup: 2nd app (W2, L1).

PRODUCED a superb performance to destroy a world-class field at Loch Lomond in July, although it was a week too early to defend his Open title successfully. The runaway winner of the US money list last year and likely to be the strong man of this US team. Did not crack when Ballesteros produced miracle after miracle in their bizarre top singles match at Oak Hill.

O'Meara's verdict: A very solid player as he showed with his exhibition at the British Open last year and on the US tour. Big heart, a lot of guts. He knows how to win.

Davis Love III

Age: 33. World ranking: 10. Majors: 1.

Career wins: 12. Ryder Cup: 3rd app (W5, L4).

CLINCHED his place with an emotional but striking victory in the US PGA at Winged Foot. The son of a PGA professional who died in a plane crash, Love finally fulfilled his destiny with a five-stroke win over Leonard. Came from one down with two to play to beat Rocca in '93 and win the Cup back for the US. Four-time winner of the World Cup with best friend Couples.

O'Meara's verdict: Davis has turned into a fabulous player. He has a fabulous swing, and is a good ball-striker. That's his best asset and his victory at the US PGA shows that he knows how to win.

Jim Furyk

Age: 27. World ranking: 21. Majors: 0.

Career wins: 2. Ryder Cup: Debut.

POSSESSES a swing that has been described by the Irish golfer David Feherty as resembling "an octopus in a phone booth". But it works for him. Not won this year, but consistency has made him seventh on the US money list. Collected eight top-eight finishes in a row including fifth at the US Open and fourth at the Open, before adding a sixth place at the US PGA. Taught the game by his father, who has been his only coach.

O'Meara's verdict: Jim is a real straight hitter of the ball. He has a wonderful short game and is obviously also a very good putter.

Phil Mickelson

Age: 27. World ranking: 8. Majors: 0.

Career wins: 11. Ryder Cup: 2nd app (W3, L0)

UNBEATEN at Oak Hill when he made his debut in '95, the talented left- hander has been a prolific winner on the US tour in recent seasons but has as yet failed to be right in contention for a major. Fine record as an amateur and in two Walker Cups, winning five points out of eight. Loves playing in the heat of the desert.

O'Meara's verdict: A gifted performer. The best left-handed player in the world, a wonderful putter, with as good a short game and as much imagination as any golfer to come along in a long time. Those are things you want on the Ryder Cup team.

Jeff Maggert

Age: 33. World ranking: 28. Majors: 0.

Career wins: 3. Ryder Cup: 2nd app (W2, L2).

THE "David Gilford" of the American team, quiet and unassuming but underestimate him at your peril. Played at Oak Hill and shot a final round 65 at Winged Foot to make sure of his place this time. Involved in the four-way battle on the last day of the US Open at Congressional, but was the first to falter and fall away.

O'Meara's verdict: A straight hitter who has a solid all-round game. When he is putting well and thinking well, he can win tournaments. He came on strong when he had to make this team and proved that he can play.

Mark O'Meara

Age: 40. World ranking: 9. Majors: 0.

Career wins: 20. Ryder Cup: 4th app (W2, L5, H1).

GAINED his latest win, his sixth in the last two years, at the Lancome Trophy last week when his short game more than made up for some loose tee shots. Has not played since '91, but has steadily improved and will be aiming to gain his first singles win. Lives on the same complex as and often goes fishing with his young friend.

O'Meara on himself: I would say my strengths are just hanging tough, trying to keep everything balanced. I'm putting pretty well right now and that's a big asset of mine. I always try to hang in there and never give up.

Scott Hoch

Age: 41. World ranking: 14. Majors: 0.

Career wins: 14. Ryder Cup: Debut.

SOMEWHAT of an old-timer for a rookie. The man who could have denied Nick Faldo the Masters title at Augusta in '89 when he missed a short putt at the first play-off hole. Refuses to talk to the press after a golf magazine labelled him the most unpopular player on the US tour. In return, he has not been too complimentary about the Old Course at St Andrews.

O'Meara's verdict: An all-round gutsy player. There is a guy who gets a lot out of his game. He hits the ball pretty straight, is a good iron player. When he is on, he is deadly.

Brad Faxon

Age: 36. World ranking: 16. Majors: 0.

Career wins: 6. Ryder Cup: 2nd app (W1, L2).

LOST twice to David Gilford at Oak Hill two years ago, including in the singles when he missed a six-foot pressure putt at the last. Putting is usually his strongest suit, and he has given lessons and advice to both Colin Montgomerie and this year. Tenth on the US money list with over $1m (pounds 630,000).

O'Meara's verdict: If this man is not the best putter in the world, then he is definitely one of the best. He never gives up out there. He is very determined, even if he is driving the ball poorly, to find a way to get the job done.

Lee Janzen

Age: 33. World ranking: 38. Majors: 1.

Career wins: 7. Ryder Cup: 2nd app (W0, L2).

ONLY previous appearance was in 1993 at The Belfry when he lost both his matches. Unlucky to miss out two years ago, when he won the week after the qualifying finished, but lagged in the qualifying this time before a fine final round alongside Tom Kite at Winged Foot in the US PGA earned him the second wild-card spot. His fourth place there was only his second such lofty finish in a major after his 1993 US Open victory.

O'Meara's verdict: Lee is a methodical type player. Very focused, with a wonderful short game and a very good putter.

Fred Couples

Age: 37. World ranking: 12. Majors: 1.

Career wins: 16. Ryder Cup: 5th app (W5, L7, H4).

CURATE'S egg of a season in which he has had to deal with his father's illness and his own separation from his fiancee. Hardly played at times, but finished seventh at the Masters and the Open to claim one of Tom Kite's wild cards. A far more dominant player than when he lost to Ireland's Christy O'Connor Jnr at The Belfry in 1989.

O'Meara's verdict: Freddie is a relaxed kind of guy, keeps everything in perspective and doesn't get emotionally too high or low. He has played in a lot of Ryder Cups and can rise to the occasion.

Interviews by Andy Farrell

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