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Article updated: 9/28/2012 1:54 PM

Fear not, gentlemen, only a half billion people are watching you.

By Mike Spellman

OK, gentlemen, welcome to the first tee.

No need to be nervous, though, because there are only thousands of rabid fans in the bleachers and strewed out along the fairway here at Medinah Country Club -- even at this ungodly early hour.

You may also notice that some fans have their faces painted, others are singing and waving flags and most are chanting for their respective sides.

Oh, and before I forget, you'll need to do this for three straight days with the pride of your homeland at stake while a worldwide television audience of about half a billion people in 183 countries watches your every move.

So go ahead, tee up your ball, and hey ... enjoy!

Can you imagine?

Well, that's exactly what awaits the 12 members of the U.S. team and their 12 European counterparts when the biggest event in golf -- the Ryder Cup -- comes to the suburbs for what should be a spectacular weekend featuring 24 of the top 35 players in the world.

While the Americans are slight favorites to wrest the Cup back from the Europeans, with so many good players in the field it's going to come down to who can handle the pressure the best.

Not an easy thing to do in a competition of this magnitude.

"There's no good way to get prepared for it," former U.S. Ryder Cup captain Hal Sutton said. "Something this big and this electric, you get caught thinking about the bigger picture. You want to stay out of that as much as you can."

Easier said then done, just ask Europe's Paul Lawrie, who had the honor of hitting the first tee shot of the 1999 Ryder Cup.

"Something I enjoyed," Lawrie said with a wry smile. "It's one of those situations where it's like the whole thing comes down to your match, your opening tee shot."

And even after that first tee shot flies, hopefully, the pressure never seems to let up over what surely will be a long, grueling weekend for the players.

"I guess the big thing I've learned from the last few Ryder Cups is that being nervous and being anxious is not really worth it," said former U.S. Open champion and European team stalwart Graeme McDowell. "Just leave your nerves on the first tee."

That may be something Ryder Cup veterans are able to do, but this year's competition features five rookies, four of whom will be sporting U.S. colors.

Three of the American's rookies will take part in Friday morning's alternate shot format.

"When I was captain I tried to tell them to know how good you are and that's why you're here," Ben Crenshaw said of his approach toward Cup rookies.

"I remember the first time I ever played the Ryder Cup; I was nervous as I can be," Sutton said. "You just have to face it. You can't get rid of it.

"They've never seen anything like this. I played with Michael Phelps (earlier this week) and he said he'd never been that nervous in his life. Even for guys who know what they're doing, it gets pretty electric."

For Lanny Wadkins, when it came to the Ryder Cup it was a case of pressure, shmessure -- bring it on!

Wadkins' record of 20-11-3 in Cup competition looks all the more impressive considering that not one player on the 2012 U.S. squad has a record above .500

"It's no trick; I just wanted to win. There's no magic to it," Wadkins said. "I grew up playing match play and I wanted to win as badly as I could. If I was up 2, I wanted to be up 3. It's a pretty simple philosophy -- just keep going forward.

"I always felt excited but I don't think I was never nervous enough that I couldn't play. It was where I wanted to be. It was where I worked to be. So why would I be afraid of it?"

The first hints of who will be able to handle the heat will be deciphered at 7:20 a.m. when U.S. rookie Brandt Snedeker and veteran Jim Furyk take on the Northern Ireland duo of McDowell and world No. 1 Rory McIlroy.

Talk about pressure, huh Jim?

"I'll be nervous just like I know Rory will be nervous and I know Graeme is going to be nervous and I know Brandt is going to be nervous," Furyk said. "But it'll be nice for us to get out there and get a point and set the tone early against probably their strongest team."

Somewhere Lanny Wadkins just smiled.

All right, let's go ahead and tee it up boys, and hey ... enjoy.

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