MEDINAH, Ill. — The question used to come up every other year when the Americans began looking ahead to the Ryder Cup.
"Who's their Peter Baker?"
Europe always had at least one player the Americans didn't know anything about until losing to him. Baker played in only one Ryder Cup, going 3-1 in 1993 and winning a singles match against Corey Pavin, one of the toughest guys to beat in match play.
Those days are gone. As golf has expanded its borders, the Ryder Cup no longer has any mystery guests.
Eight of the Europeans have joint membership on the PGA Tour, and all eight have homes in Florida. Luke Donald of England, who has the best winning percentage of anyone at Medinah, lives about 45 minutes away on the north side of Chicago.
The only Ryder Cup rookie for Europe is Nicolas Colsaerts, the big hitter from Belgium. With the majors and World Golf Championships, he already has played eight times in America this year, and has been invited to play in a PGA Tour event in two weeks in California.
There are no surprises in this Ryder Cup, only stars.
"Both teams are pretty much even and it's going to be a close match," European captain Jose Maria Olazabal said. "I don't see any favorites."
When the matches get under way Friday at Medinah, they will feature the two strongest teams in the 85-year history of the Ryder Cup. The entire 12-man team for the United States was part of the 30-man field at the Tour Championship last week in Atlanta, joined by five of the seven Europeans who were eligible.
For the first time, the 24 players from both sides are among the top 35 in the world ranking.
Europe has four major champions and four players who have been No. 1 in the world.
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