The return of former world number one Tiger Woods will overshadow this year’s Ryder Cup, but he could also inspire the US team to arrest their losing streak in this year’s edition.
Even though he won’t be swinging his shots competitively, Woods will be the star attraction as the vice-captain of the US team.
The 40-year-old will be on site, checking how the players go through their paces.
The former champion has been out of action for 12 months with a back injury.
But whether he is playing or not, Woods will still command a huge following from the Hazeltine National galleries.
Ahead of this year’s event, the big question is: will the European golf team stretch their winning streak over the US side?
The two continents clash at the biennial tournament that tees off at Hazeltine National Golf Club, in Chaska, Minnesota, on Friday.
The event is a match-play contest featuring 12 players apiece from Europe and the US.
Europe will be led by Darren Clarke from Northern Ireland and the US by Davis Love III.
The European side has been dominant since 1985, having won nine times, while the Americans prevailed on four occasions in between that period (1991, 1993, 1999 and 2008).
Before then, the US squad had taken 13 titles back-to-back (from 1959 to 1983).
Clarke is so confident of another victory this year that he has thrown six debutants into the deep end.
They will team up alongside some of the top dogs who are highly ranked globally, including Rory McIlroy (third) and Justin Rose (11th). McIlroy played a pivotal role at the 2012 Ryder Cup hosted at Medinah Country Club, Illinois, where he defeated Keegan Bradley 2 and 1 to help Europe win 14½ to 13½.
McIlroy and Rose are making their fourth appearances at the contest.
But no one should discount German Martin Kaymer, who is also expected to be on top form. He put Europe on the cusp of victory in 2014 when he chipped in for an eagle on the 16th to beat Bubba Watson.
Clarke will lead the Europeans for the first time. He takes over from his countryman Paul McGinley, who was in charge in 2014.
Interestingly, they infamously fell out after Clarke changed his mind about supporting McGinley’s bid to captain the European team at the 2014 tournament, deciding instead to also run for the top role.
Now Clarke will have to prove to all and sundry that, like McGinley, he can do Europe proud by winning the Ryder Cup as the man at the helm.
Clarke will work hard alongside his four vice-captains to lead the squad to yet another victory.
But the US team will have a formidable side that includes veteran Phil Mickelson.
At 46, “Lefty”, as Mickelson is nicknamed, is widely known for his left-handed swing, even though he is right-handed.
The oldest player in the squad, he will be making his 10th appearance.
The US squad has what it takes to give a good showing given its good mix of competitors, which includes Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth.
They are ranked second and fourth respectively in the world.
Love is expected to announce his final wild-card pick tomorrow morning (South Africa time) after the end of the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia.