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American Ryder Cup team arrives three hours late

STRAFFAN, Ireland -- The Americans arrived for the Ryder Cup
about three hours late Monday, which captain Tom Lehman attributed
to bringing too much luggage on the charter plane.

Considering how these matches have gone lately, he can only hope
it wasn't emotional baggage.

Having lost four of the last five times, the Americans will try
to beat Europe on its home soil for the first time since 1993 when
the Ryder Cup gets under way on Friday at The K Club.

Another ominous sign?

Not long after the U.S. team arrived, a weekend of gorgeous
weather gave way to a downpour that drenched the golf course,
making the chipping green look like a wading pool.

Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk arrived separately after losing in the
first round of the HSBC World Match Play Championship last week at
Wentworth. Woods stayed in England, attending the Chelsea-Liverpool
game on Sunday, while Furyk came over to The K Club to practice.

The Americans were supposed to arrive at 9 a.m., but did not
land in Dublin until noon.

"We brought more than our share of luggage,'' Lehman said. "We
were trying to put together a puzzle, trying to fit all the stuff
inside the plane. You could see the guys outside the plane in the
windows going, 'How are we going to get all this stuff inside?' But
they managed to do it. Our team is very excited we're coming
back.''

Lehman brought his team to Ireland at the end of August for two
days of practice, determined to end nearly two decades of
frustration in the Ryder Cup. The weather should not have been
surprising, because it also rained most of those two days.

Along with extra baggage, the Americans brought a new label to
these matches -- underdogs.

Europe has only two rookies on this team -- Henrik Stenson and
Robert Karlsson of Sweden -- and Paul Casey gave his squad an
emotional lift with his victory Sunday in the World Match Play
Championship.

The Americans counter with a powerful 1-2-3 punch -- Woods,
Phil Mickelson and Furyk -- but have four rookies on their team,
two of whom never have competed in match play.

"The European team is extremely strong, and very, very strong
from top to bottom,'' Lehman said. "Our team is very strong. We
have four rookies that are always a bit of a question mark,
although I believe that they are tremendous players. But at the end
of the day, I think the European team based on the strength of
their team, playing here in Ireland, would probably have to be
favored.''

Woosnam and his wife, Glendryth, were at the airport to greet
Lehman and his U.S. team.

The former Masters champion said in a recent Golf Digest
magazine interview that one of his pet peeves was people showing up
late. He was more than willing to give the Americans a reprieve in
this case.

"That doesn't count today,'' he said. "The American team has
had to travel from a long distance. We didn't mind waiting. Pity it
started raining just as they came off the plane, but I'm glad to
see everybody got here safe.''