No love-in: US captain promises fireworks with Olazabal
FOR two years of build-up and two days of preview press conferences, the overwhelming theme of this week's Ryder Cup has seemed to be fun and mutual respect.
But after Ian Poulter questioned: "How can you can be great mates with somebody, but, boy, do you want to kill them in Ryder Cup?" yesterday, United States captain Davis Love admitted it is inevitable that he and opposite number Jose Maria Olazabal will clash at some point.
With more and more European players basing themselves in America - only three team members were with Olazabal on the 'team' flight from London to Chicago on Monday - Lee Westwood concedes there is "definitely less of a them-and-us type thing" now between the players.
Previous contests have already seen both teams socialising together once the match is concluded, a trend Love stressed would continue on Sunday evening at Medinah, regardless of the outcome.
However, anyone fearing the biennial contest was in danger of losing its famous edge should not be too concerned ahead of tomorrow's opening foursomes and fourball matches.
"It's intense," Love said. "Do we want to pummel them? Yes we do. We want to win.
"You know what, Olly and I will go toe-to-toe at some point because it's intense. It'll be about carts going over a bridge or he has more carts than me or something.
"I remember Tom (Kite) with Seve (Ballesteros) once when Tom's ball was clearly on the green, but Seve asked about it (whether it could be marked) and I went in and said 'OK boys, back off'. It was the way it was handled.
"Olly and I will get testy, but it will be respectful and for the crowd to be fair is ultimately the goal."
Whether the crowd is fair remains to be seen, with all 24 players expecting a sport-mad city like Chicago to provide raucous galleries eager for the home side to regain the trophy and claim only a second US win in six attempts.
Martin Kaymer felt Tuesday's first practice round had been quieter than expected, but Olazabal could feel the atmosphere building yesterday as he looked ahead to today's opening ceremony.
"It's great to be at this position and getting closer to Friday's matches," said Olazabal, who experienced the 'War on the Shore' at Kiawah Island in 1991 and the 'Battle of Brookline' in 1999 as a player.
"There is not much more room to manoeuvre at the moment, so everything is set. Players are ready. We are all eager to see the first match on that first tee.
"The sooner we get to that point, obviously the more excitement you feel, the more pressure, the more tension. You can see that in the crowds today. They were already dropping a few "USAs" in there and stuff like that.
"I think Friday morning is going to be amazing. It's going to be loud. That's the beauty of this event."
Europe have won four of the last five contests, but six of the last seven have also been won by the home side, with bookmakers making the United States favourites to regain the trophy last won under Paul Azinger at Valhalla in 2008.
A high-quality, low-scoring contest seems certain, with Europe boasting four of the world's top five - all 24 players are within the top 35 - and Love opting for very light rough off the fairways and around the greens to promote birdies and eagles.
It should be a match of which the late Ballesteros, who is being honoured by both teams this week, would be proud.