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Europeans think team spirit will swing Ryder Cup

Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke are urging European Ryder Cup fans not to press the panic button with the match in Boston only three weeks away.

The two stablemates, likely to be key men in the eagerly-awaited showdown with the United States, were part of a dismal showing by Mark James' team in last week's World Championship event in Ohio.

But, now on 'home' soil again for the Canon European Masters starting in Switzerland on Thursday, Westwood and Clarke are not prepared to give Tiger Woods and company the trophy just yet.

"The Americans are all right when they are playing for themselves," said world number five Westwood. "When you get the European team spirit going it will be a different kettle of fish."

Clarke added: "I don't think you can read anything into last week at all. That was strokeplay and the Ryder Cup is matchplay. They are completely different games and what happened last week is completely irrelevant."

While Woods just beat Phil Mickelson on Sunday and three more of Ben Crenshaw's line-up were in the top 10, the only European to break par was 19-year-old Sergio Garcia in joint seventh spot.

Collectively the 12 Americans finished seven under par and the 12 Europeans 71 over, but Westwood added: "The way the TV people are going, saying the Europeans are so many over, it just builds more pressure on themselves.

"I don't know whether they expect to win or not, but everybody has them as favourites. Let them keep creating statistics like that - it just plays into our hands."

Westwood made his cup debut in the Valderrama win two years ago and experienced then that, however you have played just before, when the match arrives "you get something going inside you".

With Miguel Angel Jimenez the only other cup man taking part this week, Westwood and Clarke - 33rd and 36th respectively of the 41 starters in Ohio - have a golden opportunity to give their confidence a timely boost.

Despite the £1million first prize at each of the three World Championship tournaments introduced this season, they have yet to catch alight. And according to the two British stars, they are already in need of a rethink.

The next is at Valderrama on November 4-7, straight after the Volvo Masters at nearby Montecastillo, and Westwood describes that as "a terrible date".

The 25-year-old from Worksop said: "It will devalue the Volvo Masters. You can be £300,000 or £400,000 behind, win the World Championship event and win the Order of Merit.

"Last year was very exciting (his duel with Colin Montgomerie and Clarke went right to the final few holes). It won't be like that this year. I think they've got it completely wrong."

Looming as a bigger headache for golf's hierarchy is the World Championship matchplay event scheduled for Australia in the first week of 2001.

"What sort of date is that?" said Westwood. "A lot of Americans won't pitch up."

Clarke agrees. "You ain't going to get many playing in that," he said. "I just think most of the guys will skip it. That's very poor scheduling really - very silly."

Also in this week's field are Nick Faldo and Seve Ballesteros, both of whom have had to forget the Ryder Cup and focus instead on resurrecting their careers.

Ballesteros' nephew Raul, still an amateur, is competing as well, as is Surrey teenager Zane Scotland, who in July became one of the youngest players ever to qualify for the Open.