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Maggert says US are the worlds best

Jeff Maggert, winner of the million-dollar prize in the Andersen Consulting Match Play Championship, dearly wants to add a Ryder Cup title to his resume and likes his chances on a U.S. team he says has the best players in the world.

Maggert said U.S. captain Ben Crenshaw need not get too bothered over how best to pair players for the foursomes and four-ball matches that launch the three-day Ryder Cup competition starting Friday at The Country Club.

"Let's face it, we've got the 12 best players in the world and if they just go out and play golf and hit golf shots, it's hard to mess up putting two guys together," Maggert said Tuesday before the first full day of Ryder practice.

Maggert's remark echoed the 1967 speech given at a team dinner by U.S. captain Ben Hogan, who said his men were "the finest golfers in the world" before his team went out and beat Great Britain 23 1/2 to 8 1/2.

The "best in the world" brag failed U.S. captain Raymond Floyd, who so dubbed his unit at the gala ball before the 1989 matches at The Belfry. Europe tied the United States 14 to 14 in those matches to retain the cup and extend their hold on the trophy to six years.

Maggert said he respected the opposition, but could not help feeling the U.S. team featuring top-ranked Tiger Woods, David Duval (2), Davis Love (4), Payne Stewart (8), Hal Sutton (10), Mark O'Meara (11), Justin Leonard (12) and Phil Mickelson (13) was the very best.

"I think all 12 of us on our team think we're the best players in the world," said the confident Texan. "And I'm sure if you ask the European players, they'll probably have a different opinion."

On paper, the U.S. team seems to hold a big advantage in experience and performance. Ten U.S. players rank within the top 16 on the world rankings list, with only Colin Montgomerie (3), Lee Westwood (5) and Jesper Parnevik (15) joining them from the European side.

Europe is also fielding a team with seven first-time Ryder Cup players, although one of them is 19-year-old Spanish sensation Sergio Garcia, who battled Woods to the finish at the U.S. PGA Championship.

Still, Maggert, a member of losing U.S. teams in 1995 and 1997 despite personally playing to a 4-3-0 record, knows that matches are not played on paper.

"I don't believe there's ever really any favorites in golf at our level," said the 34-year-old.

"You can analyze what's happened in the last six months and say these guys are the better players that have played better. But every day's a new day in this game. And right now they have the Cup and we want it back.

"They don't have a lot of Ryder Cup experience but certainly their players are talented. And as a player, I'm not going to underestimate any of their players' abilities to perform well. They've proven themselves to make the team."

Maggert would not deny that national pride was a big factor for him.

"It's really the main reason we're all here, to test American golfers' skills against the skills of the European golfers," he said.

"And it's not about money; and it's not about anything else, but 'Let's see if the American players can beat the European players.'" And there's a lot of pride in your country. It's a big motivation factor for me and for all the players."


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