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Mark James banishes some Ryder Cup myths

European captain Mark James had some fun on Tuesday debunking some of the myths surrounding the Ryder Cup, reminding everyone that the intense, match-play competition is, after all, just a game.

James said he disagreed with those that liken the biennial duel between the best golfers from the United States and Europe to a war.

"I wouldn't call it bloodthirsty competition, no," said James. "I don't think golf ever gets that serious. You give 100 percent and it means a lot to the players whether you win or lose this match. It does.

"It's the highest form of team event in our sport, our careers. To get into the team is an enormous honour. And it matters, but people aren't dying because of it."

James said the international nature of the sport lessens the level of vitriol.

"I think a lot of the Europeans have a lot of friends on the American side and vice versa," he said. "And it's serious. We're both out here to win the matches, and it's serious golf.

"But at the end of the week, I'll be able to shake Ben warmly by the throat and we'll sit down and have a beer."

James is trying to steer Europe to a third successive Cup victory over the Americans in the matches that begin Friday at The Country Club. Asked the key to being a good captain, James replied, "A good team."

On paper, the Americans seem to have the stronger squad with 10 players ranked within the top 16 on the world list, with only Colin Montgomerie (3), Lee Westwood (5) and Jesper Parnevik (15) joining them from the European side.

Six members of the U.S. team possess a combined 10 major championships. Two members of the Europe team have won three Grand Slam crowns in total.

U.S. player Jeff Maggert said the Americans had the 12 best players in the world.

"I've always said the world rankings are wrong," James said in response. "I'm glad Jeff agrees with me."

Europe is almost always cast in the role of Ryder underdogs against the United States, which enjoys greater depth but not nearly the passion and determination exhibited by the Europeans.

Still, James rejected the notion that Europe's recent success had anything to do with being "hungrier."

"It's very, very easy once, if you lose a match, to blame it on not being hungry or having a bad captain or the players being not team oriented," said James. "You're looking for excuses, I think.

"It comes down to how they play. I think sometimes the role of the captain and team spirit can be overstated. I think if you look for excuses, you're hiding the fact that maybe one team played slightly better. It's as simple as that."

Team chemistry is another hackneyed term used to describe an important Ryder Cup team ingredient. James was asked whether Swedish rookie Jarmo Sandelin, who favours alligator boots, big silver belt buckles and skin tight slacks on the golf course, was a bit eccentric.

"I wouldn't say Jarmo is a bit eccentric," James said without skipping a beat. "I think he's very eccentric. But we have a lot of eccentric people in Europe. And we're very used to them, and Jarmo fits in great. He's a good, fun guy to be around. We understand him. Simple as that."

Sandelin is one of seven Ryder Cup rookies on the European team.

"I think, if you had your choice, you would want your team to be experienced," said James, who passed over nine-time Ryder player Bernhard Langer, a two-time Masters champion who finished 14th on the points list, to select rookie Andrew Coltart with one of his captain's picks.

"There's no question about that. But there's no point in having the experienced team if they're not playing well," he added.

"The players that are not experienced have to learn quickly from the players that are. And for myself and my assistant captains (Sam Torrance and Ken Brown) we're doing our best in that respect."

James was asked if he remembered any sage advice handed to him when he made his Cup debut in 1977.

"No, I can't remember any from the first time I played," he admitted. "There probably was some. I probably ignored it. When you're 22, you think, 'What does he know?'"