Tiger Woods sees an impressive International squad poised for the Presidents Cup but likes the chance his US team can retain the trophy with a fun but focused atmosphere inspired by captain Jack Nicklaus.
Both teams arrived Monday in Canada ahead of the seventh edition of the match-play event between American and non-European sides at Royal Montreal Golf Club, with the US squad owning a 4-1-1 edge in the rivalry.
South Africa's Ernie Els, Australian Adam Scott and South Korean KJ Choi lead an Internationals lineup with nine of the top 18 players in the world.
"If you look on the international side, I think that everyone will be the first to admit that's probably the best lineup there is, including US or European Ryder Cup teams," Woods said in a conference call on Monday.
"To be on the international team, you have to basically be in the top 20 in the world to make the squad. That's pretty formidable."
As part of golf's global growth, the next Presidents Cup events will be staged in new venues - San Francisco in 2009 and Australia in 2011, returning to the only nation where the Internationals won by 20 1/2-11 1/2 in 1998.
Asked about spreading the event to new areas, Woods made a backhanded slap at that lone Internationals' victory, noting how US players were off form by having to make the trip Down Under in December.
"Any time you get to move this event, move it around, I think it helps the event. It helps grow what we're trying to grow," Woods said.
"The only exception was probably in '98 when some of the guys had taken their time off and really hadn't been as prepared as they needed to be for the event.
"But every other year since, I think the guys have been very focused, have always wanted to win."
Woods, whose 61 PGA titles include 13 majors, cited the influence of Nicklaus, the man whose record 18 majors Woods wants to break, in keeping the US focused but also enjoying the event and each other.
"Jack has traditionally just let us play. He gets out of the way. He says go prepare how you normally prepare for an event," Woods said.
"It has been more hands-off than anything else. When he does speak, though, everyone listens because obviously he is the greatest player of all time. You always want to hear what he's going to say.
"But he doesn't speak very often, which makes it very interesting. It's not a rah-rah atmosphere. It's very serious, very focused, but also just a lot of fun."
Part of that comes from knowing his teammates.
"It's great to get to know a lot of the guys," he said. "It builds from one team to the next because of what we've done in Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups in the past."
In four Presidents Cups, Woods is 10-9 with one halved, 3-1 in singles and 5-2 with a half in foursomes but just 2-6 in four-ball.
Among this year's players with more than one prior Cup start, only Jim Furyk and Stewart Cink also have winning overall marks. And they, like Woods, have losing overall marks in the Ryder Cup against Europe's finest.
But while Europe has dominated the Americans, the US best have denied their global foes in the Presidents Cup. Woods has made a difference, including a night-halted playoff duel with Els that led to a 2003 draw at South Africa.
"Whoever plays Tiger Woods is in for a very difficult match," Internationals captain Gary Player said. "But Retief Goosen played him and beat him. Nick O'Hern has played him twice and beaten him on both occasions.
"The odds are of anybody beating Tiger are remote. But it does happen." Goosen beat Woods 2-and-1 in singles in 2005, thanks to the same timely putting he expects will be needed this week.
"I putted very well when I played against him," Goosen said. "It's pretty much what you'll have to do this week by the looks of it. There's not a lot of rough out there so scoring is going to be good."
O'Hern has ousted Woods twice at the World Golf Championships Match-Play.
"I'd obviously love another crack at Tiger," O'Hern said. "He's the No. 1 player in the world for a reason and I think everyone would love to have that challenge of playing him."