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Ryder Cup captains evasive as ever

Captains Mark James and Ben Crenshaw opened the long Ryder Cup run-up dance on Monday by sidestepping the question of which side should be considered the favorite.

"I don't think it should be particular for either side," said European captain James at a quick news conference at Boston's Logan International Airport after arriving on the Concorde.

U.S. captain Ben Crenshaw said: "So much has been said about who is favored and who is not. It doesn't make any difference, because we're talking about match play.

"You do everything you can do to prepare, but it's very difficult to predict in golf."

The 33rd biennial three-day, match play competition starts on Friday at The Country Club.

Europe has won the last two matches, ambushing the Americans in 1995 with a surge in Sunday's singles at Oak Hill in Rochester, New York, and then defending the cup two years ago at Valderrama in Sotogrande, Spain.

"We wipe the slate clean and we compete from a level playing field," James said. "I think it's a question of going out, playing golf and the best team will win. It's as simple as that."

Europe brings a most inexperienced team to defend the trophy, with seven Ryder rookies on the 12-man team. The U.S. team features only one rookie, and a very accomplished one at that in David Duval, who has jockeyed with teammate Tiger Woods at the top of the world rankings this year.

James said he and his staff were prepared to offer support for the younger players and that team members Colin Montgomerie and Jose Maria Olazabal would also assume a leadership role.

"I think Monty and Jose being the most experienced players are intending to do that," said James. "The young players will be looking to them to lead."

Crenshaw deflected suggestions that the play-for-pay issue that was raised this summer would prey on the minds of his squad members.

At the PGA Championship at Medinah, several U.S. players voiced their opinions that Ryder Cup players should have a say in how the vast Ryder revenues are spent, and Crenshaw ripped Woods, Duval, Mark O'Meara and Phil Mickelson for their focus on the money.

"That's a non-issue," Crenshaw said. "The PGA has said that they are going to have a plan in place by the end of the year. But (the controversy) dissipated very quickly. It really did."