The rivalry between Englishman Lee Westwood (far right) and American Davis Love III (second from right) stretches back to their peaks two decades ago. This 1998 photo features Ernie Els (second from right) and Tiger Woods, whose selection as Ryder Cup vice-captain Westwood has questioned.

Story highlights

Ryder Cup starts at Hazeltine, MN on Sept 30

Tiger Woods named US vice-captain

Europe has won 11 of last 15 Cups

US last win was in 2008

CNN —  

Shots have been fired between senior figures of the US and European Ryder Cup teams a full week before taking to the greens at Hazeltine, Minnesota.

Davis Love III, who captained the losing 2012 US Ryder Cup team, told PGA Tour Radio on Friday that this US squad “is the best golf team maybe ever assembled.”

The statement – which was magnified on social media and ridiculed by Europe’s most experienced player, Lee Westwood – was surprising since the US has not won a Ryder Cup in eight years. The team will also be missing Tiger Woods, who has moved to a vice-captain’s role while in recovery.

“You need to stand up there, smash it down the middle and take off walking – let the other team know we are going to dominate you,” added Love, who surely was trying to gee up his own team, but spoke as though the opposition would not be listening.

“If we are putting any eight guys out at a time, they are going to be really good; it is more (the players) who to sit that we are struggling with.”

Westwood, who will compete in his tenth straight Ryder Cup this Friday, seized on Love’s comments by taking to Twitter. “No pressure there then lads!” he wrote.

Westwood’s European teams have won seven of the previous nine tournaments. This year’s lineup will feature Olympic gold medalist Justin Rose, along with 2016 British Open winner Henrik Stenson, not to mention Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia, who will play in their fourth and eighth Ryder Cups, respectively.

The US team will be led by Phil Mickelson, who will be taking part in his eleventh Ryder Cup, alongside 2015 Masters and US Open champion Jordan Speith and this year’s US Open winner Dustin Johnson.

The team has not yet been finalized, with a final wildcard selection anticipated on Sunday after the conclusion of the PGA Tour Championship.

The glaring omission from the US Team so far is two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson.

“There seem to have been issues about team spirit and chemistry,” Westwood told ESPN. “Love’s has not picked Bubba Watson, and I don’t know what that does for team spirit. He was first outside the points qualification and is No.7 in the world.

“The captain is obviously building them up a lot, and making a few interesting decisions,” he added. “They have got a strong side and probably are favorites, but they haven’t won it for a while and they are playing in front of a home crowd.

“There is a lot of pressure on them. That is going to keep building in the next week or so and by the time the Ryder Cup comes around it is going to be pretty intense for them,” he said.

Woods will miss his second straight Ryder Cup, though the tournament was never really his forte. In seven Ryder Cups dating back to 1997, Woods won 13 matches, split three and lost 17.

Woods was part of a task force assigned to improve the US team after the Gleneagles loss in 2014, and was instrumental in choosing Love as captain.

Westwood saved his most precise words for analyzing Woods, who he has beaten in seven of eight Ryder Cup matches.

“I don’t know what impact there will be from having Tiger around,” Westwood said. “He could have an adverse effect in the dressing room.”

Read: Tiger Woods a ‘future captain’ of Team USA

“People have always seemed to try to do too much when they have partnered him. It might be different if he’s one of the vice-captains; you don’t know,” he said.

In the 18 Ryder Cups since the format pitted Europe against the US in 1979, the Americans have claimed just seven wins – the last one in 2008 at Valhalla in Louisville, Kentucky.

Europe, meanwhile, have won 11 of the past 15 Cups.