The waiting is over and the Gleneagles Hotel has been taken over by golfing hierarchy in anticipation of Ryder Cup 2014.
The first thing that comes to mind for me is the chatter and a feeling on this side of the pond of a somewhat easy victory for the Europeans. This lackadaisical attitude and any complacency on the part of the European side, who are 1.60 to win outright, is - in my opinion - the main reason why we could have a tighter affair than many people envisage.
Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson are out for the US side, as is 2012 Ryder Cupper Jason Dufner. The form golfer on the planet, Billy Horschel, is a non-runner due to what many believe is a shoddy pre-FedEx Cup climax deadline for the Captain's picks, and American team leader Tom Watson has arguably gone with out of form players.
When you break it down though, the bottom line is that on paper the US team, at 2.80 to win, are every bit as good as the Europeans and there's no event like the Ryder Cup to spark people into first gear. Take a look at Ian Poulter for proof of that.
Woods and Dustin in my opinion won't be missed in a matchplay format. In fact there's a strong argument that Woods' ego is extremely off-putting for team mates in an event of this ilk, and finding a suitable partner for him down the years has proven a battle in its own right.
The vast majority of the US players also felt the misery at Medinah in 2012 and will be fully focused to ensure it doesn't happen again. Perhaps most importantly, this year they'll be playing for Watson - a man more respected than most in the golfing world and this added inspiration may ultimately prove pivotal and the ace up their sleeve.
The course - Gleneagles
Playing circa 7,250 yards to a par of 72, murmurings are that Paul McGinley corresponded with the European Tour and green staff to have Celtic Manor last week for the Wales Open set up to mimic conditions at Gleneagles. Generally we see two cuts of rough then some unmaintained cabbage at the Johnnie Walker Championship, and there's a premium on tee to green accuracy. If the rumours ring true though, the banks around the greens at Gleneagles this week may be shaved down somewhat to allow more creativity with the short game - supposedly beneficial to the Europeans.
Gleneagles has seen changes aplenty in the lead up to Ryder Cup 2014, with bunkers remodelled and sub air systems introduced to the greens so regardless of the conditions, Paul can have the green speeds running how he likes. The track is both exposed and treelined in areas and driving accuracy will be important as per the norm here, especially when dealing with the cross winds. Par five scoring is usually key but an advantage in this area may be negated by the matchplay format.
Graeme McDowell stands out on the matchplay stage in terms of mentality, pedigree and playing style. The Northern Irishman was a member of the Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup winning side from 2001 and was a finalist vs Nico Colsaerts at the Volvo World Matchplay in Finca Cortes in 2012.
In terms of Ryder Cup, Graeme debuted in 2008, returning a 2.5pt haul for the Europeans. He's since gone on to be the regular partner of Rory McIlroy - 4.50 in this market - both in Ryder Cups and in the World Cup of Golf for Ireland (SP team event) where they came runner up in 2009. He holed the winning putt for Europe on home soil in Wales 2010.
There are rumours that the two men may not be an automatic pairing in the wake of some issues, but with McDowell's "never say die" attitude and consistent grinding game, he can play with anyone and looks a bet here at 10.00 or 3.25 the top 3.
Matt Kuchar - 6.50 or 2.35 - has continued where he left his amateur career in the matchplay format.
In 2006 Kuchar narrowly lost out to Tiger Woods in the US Amateur semi-final but went on to take it down the following year to sign off. The American dispatched Sergio Garcia, Jason Day and Hunter Mahan amongst others en route to taking down the 2013 WGC Accenture Matchplay - an event in which he was never more than one down in any match.
Again, Kuchar ticks all the boxes for attributes needed in this format. Between Ryder Cup, WGC Matchplay events and Presidents Cup, no 2014 US player has a more impressive win to loss ratio than Kuch. The big man can play with anyone and will likely feature in at least four if not all five match-ups.
Taking all variables into account, Ryder Cup 2014 looks set to be closer than expected. You can get 2.80 on the US in the "To lift the trophy" market while the 12.00 on a draw may be of interest. I'd expect a narrow win for the Europeans - 1.60 - due to home advantage but combining the 14.5-13.5, 15-13 and 15.5-12.5 scorelines may be the best plan of attack.
READ: The 10 Greatest Ryder Cup Celebrations Ever
READ: The 10 Worst Ryder Cup Outfits Ever