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Ryder Cup: 5 reasons to watch

09/25/2014 02:00 EDT | Updated 11/25/2014 05:59 EST
The 40th Ryder Cup is set to tee off from beautiful Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire, Scotland on Friday. The tournament, which pits the U.S. against the whole of Europe, unofficially concludes the golf season.

The weekend of match play is underlined with the usual national pride. But we wanted to give you five other reasons to watch this year's Ryder Cup:

Rory McIlroy

​What can you say about the No. 1 player in the world? ​McIlroy has had a stunning year, which included one of the hottest three week stretches golf has ever seen.

The Northern Irishman stormed Royal Liverpool in late July to win the Open Championship for his third major title. Two weeks later, McIlroy won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

McIlroy would then come from behind to claim his fourth career major a week later, winning the PGA Championship for a second time, joining only Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only golfers in the last century to win four majors at 25 years or younger.

Since mid-August, McIlroy has remained hot, posting three top-10 finishes in four tournaments. The PGA Tour's money leader is in perfect form to carry Europe on his back to victory.

American underdogs

The United States comes into the 40th Ryder Cup as the underdog in more ways than one.

The Americans have struggled in recent tournaments, claiming the title just once over their last six opportunities.

Prior to 1979, the U.S. dominated, hoisting the cup 18 times in 22 tries. But since the British roster was expanded to include all of Europe, the team from across the pond has outplayed its American counterpart, going 9-for-16.

Adding to the American's recent misery has been their inability to find success when playing overseas.

Phil Mickelson, who will play in his 10th consecutive Ryder Cup, is focused on ending a 21-year drought since the Americans last won in Europe. The last time U.S. players hoisted both their passports and the Ryder Cup was 1993 at The Belfry in England. 

The 'Template'

Ask the Europeans about the "template" and they'll remained tight-lipped. Ask captain Paul McGinley and he says he sees his job "as enhancing that template and trying to make it a bit better and rolling it out again."

The template has been passed on to every European captain and has been credited with much of the success Europe has had against the U.S. over the past 18 years. 

But what is it? 

Many believe the template is the camaraderie the European teams and players seem to have year after year. 

McGinley casts aside that notion, believing winning brings a team closer together: "When things are going well, it looks like you're bonding and the other team is not."

McGinley's boys will go back to the well once more. Question is, will the template work again?

Gleneagles Hotel

This year's Ryder Cup host has been called the "Riviera of the Highlands."

Unfortunately for the players, Gleneagles does not share the Mediterranean's blue seas and warm sun.

However, Gleneagles is a stunning contrast to regular links courses, which feature fescues that eat golf balls and chew-up club heads.

This course is not what golf fans usually see when they tune into watch the Open Championship. Instead, this Jack Nicklaus-designed, American-style parkland layout provides more room for error - but not too much. 

Gleneagles still has some traditional highland headaches compared to its American cousins. The course is made up of narrower fairways, more similar to that of the European Tour setup.

Also, September has been fertile for Scotland's countryside, making for unusually thick rough, threatening some of the great recovery shots we've become accustom to seeing during the tournament. 

Ryder Fashion 

The Ryder Cup is notorious for its fashion. Rarely do designers hit a hole in one, rather settling for a mulligan.

This weekend, look forward to over the top colour combinations, tartan jacket and pant pairings, and the prerequisite sweater vest.

Unlike tennis players, who somehow make wild colours and headbands look cool, the Ryder Cup players look like they are in need of a makeover.

Regardless, if the outfits are going to look ridiculous, the uglier the better.

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This year, Rickie Fowler has brought a little edge to the tournament. Prior to arriving in Scotland, the 25-year-old shaved a big 'USA' into the side of his head. The 10th-ranked player in the world later tweeted the patriotic look.

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