A veteran United States squad featuring 14-time major winner Tiger Woods seeks the first American triumph on European soil in 25 years when the Ryder Cup tees off next week at Le Golf National.
The September 28-30 showdown in France pits Woods and eight other US major champions against a European side with five major winners and just as many Cup newcomers in its 12-player lineup.
"My excitement to be in the Ryder Cup is at an all-time high," said five-time major champion Phil Mickelson ahead of his record-breaking 12th consecutive Ryder Cup start.
"I cherish these events. If I'd be lucky enough to go over there and be part of a winning team it would probably be my most memorable one."
The Americans lead the overall rivalry 26-13, with two drawn, but since the roster was expanded from Britain and Ireland to Europe in 1979, Europe leads 10-8 with one drawn.
"They have an incredible crowd over there," US captain Jim Furyk said. "They make a lot of noise. I love their chants. I'm looking forward to hearing that noise and I know this group of guys is excited to meet that challenge.
"We have a lot of guys in good form right now, guys who are having great seasons. To be able to weather that storm, that veteran experience will be key."
Woods has only won once from seven Ryder Cups, that in 1999 in the best US last-day comeback ever.
Back injuries left Woods an assistant captain at the 2016 event, but he's back on the course this time after spinal fusion surgery and a return to form that saw him lead on Sunday at the British Open and finish second at last month's PGA Championship.
"To have Tiger back and playing at such a high elite level has been exciting for everybody, including the players," Mickelson said. "We find ourselves watching with interest, just like all the fans do."
Three-time major winner Jordan Spieth and reigning Masters champion Patrick Reed, the self-styled "Captain America" who relishes the songs and taunts from European fans, are expected to be paired again after going 4-1, with two halved, together in Ryder Cup play.
"Having the Cup right now means we have the confidence in ourselves," Reed said. "We feel great and the guys on the team are playing really well."
- Tiger with 'fiery' rookie -
Woods is expected to be paired with rookie Bryson DeChambeau, the two having found chemistry in numerous practice rounds.
"He is very fiery, very competitive," Woods said. "We want someone who is fiery, who will bleed red, white and blue. He's playing great this year and he has been very consistent."
Another expected veteran-rookie duo is 48-year-old left-hander Mickelson and Tony Finau. They were paired together in a US PGA playoff event and Finau earned high praise from Mickelson.
Pals Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas are similar players who already have a tight bond, while reigning PGA Championship and US Open champion Brooks Koepka could produce a formidable combination as well with former world number one Dustin Johnson.
Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson went 2-1 in 2012 at Medinah and could unite in yet another strong pairing.
None of them were playing in 1993 at The Belfry, the last time a US squad won away, and Mickelson realizes for him it's probably now or never.
"I feel like we have the team. I feel like we have the leadership, we have the direction and we have the game plan that will allow us to play our best," he said.
A flop at Gleneagles in 2014 sparked a US revamp of the Ryder Cup program that produced a 17-11 win in 2016 at Hazeltine. But the acid test comes in France with Furyk trying to provide the planning and guidance lacking under Tom Watson in Scotland four years ago.
"I want to make sure our players are very comfortable with their pairings, that we feel they mesh well together and will play well together," Furyk said. "I want to give them a heads up. I don't want to throw them any curveballs when they get to France."
© 2018 AFP