The bookmakers have USA as definitive favourites to regain the Ryder Cup this weekend in Chicago, largely down to their home advantage, but I think the '13th man' only serves to equalise the two teams.
If this match was taking place on this side of the Atlantic, there would only be one winner, but many observers suggest that Davis Love's requests for the rough to be virtually non-existent to suit his long, but wild, hitters, and the excitable, partisan home crowd, will no doubt give Team USA a lift.
That is too simple an argument though. The argument about the course being set up to suit the Americans ignores the fact that all the Europeans have played golf in America in such conditions, some have played regularly on the US PGA Tour, some went to college and played college golf out there, and several have their main residences in the country.
None of the reverse is true, so, while Team USA is disadvantaged by their lack of experience of European conditions when they visit these shores, the set up in America merely serves to remove that disadvantage, rather than provide an advantage to the home team. Of the last 9 majors held on American soil, 4 have been won by Americans, 4 by Europeans. Of the last 6 Open Championships, 3 have been won by Europeans, 1 by an American.
The boost from the crowd, however, is undeniable. Having experienced the American Ryder Cup experience in Louisville four years ago, I know first hand how strong the support will be for the stars and stripes. For them, this is like a mini superbowl.
There will be hooping, hollering and a whole lot of 'USA, USA' chanting, without doubt. At times the enthusiasm goes a little past the mark, but this is not your average golf gallery. These are patriotic Americans supporting their country in a sporting event. A bit of golfing etiquette may get overlooked on occasion, but its part of the occasion, one of few head-to-head golfing events.
Don't underestimate the power of the small section of European supporters though. They will make themselves seen and heard, and the symbiosis between them and Jose Maria Olazabal's team will grow with every putt sunk. Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Graeme McDowell and Rory McDowell know how to whip the crowd up, as will the vice-captains and cheerleaders Olazabal has carefully recruited. With foursomes pairings that almost pick themselves, if Europe gets ahead early, they may never look back.
With Nicolas Colsaerts as Europe's only debutant, the other 11 European players have a formidable record, taking 68.5 points from their cumulative 109 ties played. Maybe the four American rookies will bring something new to the party, and help Team USA bridge the team bonding gap that has helped Europe to some famous victories in recent times.
On current season form, USA have a slight edge, but with 4 of the top 5 players in the world hailing from Britain, I expect the golden British summer to be extended by another weekend as Rory, Luke, Lee and Justin show that class is permanent. Add in Ian Poulter's undeniable matchplay ability and you have a mouthwatering quintet to silence the Medinah crowd, and ensure that the Samuel Ryder Trophy is in the hands of those in Seve's colours come Sunday evening.
image: © Keith Allison