Phil Mickelson takes playful swipe at European pair ahead of the Ryder Cup

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The pleasantries are over and the gloves are off as the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles approaches.

Phil Mickelson has got the ball rolling as the 40th instalment of golf's greatest team competition beckons. The American golfer had a playful dig at European pair Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.

Ahead of the tournament start on Friday he was questioned on Team USA’s perceived lack of togetherness, the 44-year-old said: "Not only are we able to play together, we also don't litigate against each other."

"That's a real plus, I feel, heading into this week."

Legal dispute

It is unknown how these comments, despite being a light-hearted jab, will be taken in the European camp as Northern Irish pair McIlroy and McDowell are on opposing sides of a legal battle involving their former management company, Horizon Sports Management.

World number one McIlroy’s legal team have asked to see details of McDowell’s deal with Horizon as they believed he received preferential terms from the Dublin based firm.

Europe captain Paul McGinley has hinted he may split the pair, who have won just two of their previous six Ryder Cup matches together, following their legal dispute. However the trio of McGinley, McIlroy and McDowell have taken step over the week to play down any talk of a rift in the European camp.

35-year-old McDowell has even stated their legal differences have made the pairing stronger.

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Change in dynamic

The Ulster pair were together in 2010 and 2012 as Europe claimed successive victories but the dynamic has changed since those days as McIlroy has risen to stratospheric heights in the golfing world.

2010 US Open winner McDowell believes that is the main reason for their split in Scotland as he was the more experienced player in the previous tournaments.

However 2014 Open and PGA Championship winner McIlroy is now golf's number one and the relationship between the two is no longer the same on the course as McGinley makes his final preparations for pairings ahead of Friday mornings start.

American underdogs

Coming into the tournament America are the clear underdogs and Mickelson, who has been paired with Keegan Bradley, recognised that but he was also confident his side could rise to the challenge of winning their first Cup on European soil in 21 years.

"Certainly we're here without Tiger Woods. We're without Dustin Johnson. We're without Jason Dufner," he said.

"And we're playing a team that has players like Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson, who have played incredible golf over the years.

"But rather than focus on what we don't have, what we do have is a great group of 12 guys that really enjoy each other's company, have a lot of fun together, and are hopefully bringing our best games to Scotland, because we are going to need it to make it a tight race and a close one for Sunday."

It is a dangerous position for Europe to be in as USA will be gearing up for revenge following the events of Medinah two years ago.

And the last time a side tipped as outright favourites in such a way was in 2006, when the American’s boasted golfs top three, however Europe came with a great team spirit and togetherness, leaving The K Club with an 18.5-9.5 demolition.

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Graeme McDowell
Rory McIlroy
Ryder Cup
Phil Mickleson

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