- Ryder Cup begins at Gleneagles in Scotland on Friday
- The two-yearly competition pits the best golfers from U.S. and Europe against each other
- Team USA is out for revenge after losing the last two contests
- Golf legend Tom Watson captains the American team
It is always with a sense of great anticipation that I get ready for the thrilling spectacle that is golf's Ryder Cup.
To see it come "home," not only to Scotland, where the game was first played, but to Gleneagles in particular, where the first "international" match was played between the best professionals of Great Britain and their U.S. counterparts 90 odd years ago, makes it all the more significant.
It has the makings of a battle royal. Let's hope it becomes one. We want this one going down to the wire, with memorable golfing moments, good gladiatorial combat and most of all, exemplary sportsmanship.
A whiff of sulfur never goes astray in sporting combat, but let's hope it doesn't get out of hand.
Nine Ryder Cups have been played since Tom Watson last captained America to victory at the Belfry in 1993, and Team Europe has won seven of them.
Given Europe's strong record over the last two decades, the burning question is how will Team USA perform under the captaincy of the great Watson?
Before a competitive ball is struck, this is already becoming a battle of pure passion versus arch professionalism.
The American setup is businesslike and has always has been. They do things by the book, dotting every "i," crossing every "t" and clinically going about their business with ruthless efficiency.
Ryder Cup veteran Jim Furyk embodies this very style. Like the winter sun, he's brilliant but cold.
The Europeans, on the other hand, play with a heart and passion that is very difficult to define. Every other year, they unite like a band of brothers. It's a bonding exercise.
Personal egos go out the window, while unity and a musketeer's "all for one, one for all" mentality embodies the team dynamic. It's visceral.
Think of Seve Ballesteros and Nick Faldo -- usually arch rivals on the course -- hugging and crying in each other's arms at Oak Hill in 1995 and you'll know what I mean. Hard to explain, but it is there and it's the fuel for the engine that is European team golf.
This year's captain Paul McGinley personifies that team dynamic. Never the greatest player, he was an achiever nonetheless and never afraid to dream big.
Hewn from the heft and brawn of Gaelic football back in his native Ireland, McGinley is a team player through and through. From his earliest representative days as a golfing talent, his greatest experiences have been as part of a collective, playing for Leinster, and Ireland, and making the Walker Cup amateur side in 1991.
Winning the World Cup for Ireland in 1997 alongside Padraig Harrington exemplified that shared experience perfectly. Since becoming a Ryder Cup hero in his debut in 2002, the Dubliner has not been part of a losing team, either as a player or vice-captain.
But can he handle the "favorites" tag? It's going to be fascinating to see what the team will deliver for him.
Conversely, Watson is a bona fide legend of the game who is also a teak-tough, battle-hardened competitor.
At 65, he still has the power to stop the game's elites in their tracks when he starts hitting balls on any range.
He is the most successful British Open champion of the modern era in golf and one of the greatest match-players of all time.
He clearly loves the Ryder Cup and absolutely hates the way the matches have gone against Team USA over the last 19 years.
Like any great gladiator, the losses annoy him beyond belief, hence his absolute desire to win this one back. The question is, however, whether he can fire up these boys in red, white and blue.
Some of the team are young enough to be their captain's grandsons -- will it be "my way or the highway?"
Can he go deep with his team in terms of connection or will it be tough love from the elder statesman? This truly is a fascinating prospect, with so much at stake.
In the end, it may only be a game. But in truth, it is in actual fact, much more important than that altogether.
"Olé" or "USA"? Let the games begin!