Woosnam is tempting at 12-1 to be top European

SPORTS BETTING
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The Independent Online
Just as they did two years ago, bookmakers and punters seem to have written off the chances of the European team in the Ryder Cup, with the United States as short as 4-9 to regain the trophy which was lost so unexpectedly at Kiawah Island in 1995. With all three of this year's major winners in their side, not to mention such solid performers as Tom Lehman and Fred Couples, the Americans deserve to start as favourites, even on foreign soil, but whether at quite such a skinny price is open to doubt.

True, the Europeans' preparation has not been ideal, and the Cup holders' cannot match the depth of experience in their opponents' side. It is also worrying to find Nick Faldo, whose form is in decline, rated as the second- favourite with most bookmakers to emerge as the top points scorer in the European side. None the less, Colin Montgomerie, Ian Woosnam and Berhard Langer can be expected to score heavily, and carry the newcomers over the first two days. It is more than misplaced optimism which makes Ballesteros's men a fair bet at current odds of 2-1.

Punters seeking a higher rate of return may prefer to predict the winning margin, and since the form of recent Cups suggests a close finish, a European win by either half, one or one and a half points, at the 10-1, 12-1 and 16-1 (which averages out at about 4-1 to level stakes) available with Coral, could be an alternative.

In the odds on the leading points scorers, Ian Woosnam looks a fair price at 12-1 with Ladbrokes (8-1 elsewhere). For the visitors, Tiger Woods is a dubious favourite on his Ryder Cup debut, and the experience of Fred Couples is preferred at 11-1 (Hills).

TO WIN THE RYDER CUP: 1-2 United States (Coral), 2-1 Europe (widely available), 10-1 tie (Ladbrokes).

TOP EUROPEAN POINTS SCORER: 4-1 Montgomerie (H), 6-1 Faldo (C), 6-1 Langer (C,H,L), 9-1 Olazabal (C,L), 10-1 Westwood (C), 11-1 Parnevik (H), 12- 1 Woosnam (L), Clarke (H,L), 14-1 Rocca (C,H), 16-1 Johansson (H), 20- 1 Bjorn (C,H,L), 33-1 Garrido (H,L).

TOP US POINTS SCORER: 100-30 Woods (C,H), 13-2 Lehman (H), 7-1 Mickelson (C), 8-1 Leonard (L), Love (H), 10-1 O'Meara (C,L), 11-1 Couples (H), 14-1 Furyk (C), 20-1 Hoch (L), Faxon (H,L), 25-1 Maggert (L), Janzen (L).

C -Coral, H -Wm Hill, L -Ladbrokes

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