September 23, 2014 / 10:34 AM / 3 years ago

European team as strong as it's ever been, says Westwood

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European Ryder Cup players (L-R) Ian Poulter, Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Victor Dubuisson pose together ahead of the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in Scotland September 23, 2014.Eddie Keogh

GLENEAGLES Scotland (Reuters) - Former world number one Lee Westwood will be appearing in his ninth successive Ryder Cup contest this week and says the European team is as powerful as any of the other eight he has been involved with.

Europe have won seven of the last nine editions and, with four of the top six players in the world rankings included in this year's side, it is little wonder they are regarded as the favorites to triumph again.

"I've played on some strong teams but I tell you, this is right up there," wildcard pick Westwood told a news conference on Tuesday. "It's equally as strong.

"We have got a lot of very good, world-class players. Pretty much... all the big tournaments this year have been won by Europeans and people on the team. We are in a pretty good position.

"We are confident without being complacent and looking forward to the week and showing how good we can play and come together as a team."

Europe captain Paul McGinley showed his hand for the first time on Tuesday when he sent his players out to practise on the Jack Nicklaus-designed Centenary Course at Gleneagles in four groups of three.

British Open and U.S. PGA champion Rory McIlroy partnered U.S. Open winner Martin Kaymer and Ryder Cup veteran Sergio Garcia.

European talisman Ian Poulter was grouped with his good friend Justin Rose and Scotland's Stephen Gallacher while former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell played alongside Swede Henrik Stenson and French rookie Victor Dubuisson.

Westwood partnered experienced Dane Thomas Bjorn and Welsh rookie Jamie Donaldson.

McIlroy (one), Garcia (three), Stenson (five) and Rose (six) are all at the top end of the world rankings and Bjorn said that was precisely the reason Europe were regarded as the favorites to win this week.

"What makes a great team great is you just have to look at the rankings," said the Dane. "You can start at the top and kind of work your way down and you get to European names very quickly.

"We know what the top part of our team have done in the world of golf over the last few years. We embrace that -- that's how far the European Tour has come and how far European golf has come that we are now looked upon as slight favorites."

The biennial team event starts on Friday.

Editing by Sudipto Ganguly

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