DUBLIN - The Presidents Cup, which begins here Thursday, is a lot like the Ryder Cup used to be, before the Ryder Cup got ultracompetitive and tense.

From 1927, when the first Ryder Cup pitted top American golfers against their counterparts from Great Britain, the U.S. dominated. Through 1983, they won 21 of 25 times (another was halved), and the events reflected the gentlemanly ideals of sportsmanship and goodwill that the founders intended. With the addition of players from continental Europe to the Great Britain-and-Ireland side in 1979, the power balance began to shift. Of the 14 matches since 1985, Europe has won nine, in several cases by lopsided margins, and halved another. Last year's dramatic European comeback in the Sunday singles matches to win at Medinah, Ill., reflected the passion, pressure and high-stakes for players' reputations that nowadays characterize the rivalry.

The biennial, alternate-year Presidents Cup, on the other hand, remains far lower-key, primarily because the U.S. team almost always wins. In the nine matches since the PGA Tour created the Cup in 1994, the world team, comprising players from anywhere but Europe and the U.S., has managed only one win, in 1998. And there was a famous half at Fancourt in South Africa in 2003 when darkness halted a playoff between Tiger Woods and Ernie Els and the two captains, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, agreed to call it a draw. No Ryder Cup captain would ever agree to a kiss-your-sister draw.

This year the American team, with eight of the world's top 15-ranked players, including No. 1 Woods and No. 3 Phil Mickelson, is again heavily favored to win.  The international team has some studs, too, such as world No. 2 Adam Scott and No. 16-ranked Jason Day. But the bottom of the international team's 12-man roster trails off fast. Skipper Nick Price's two captain's picks, Marc Leishman of Australia and Brendon de Jonge of Zimbabwe, rank No. 61 and No. 63, respectively.

Another significant advantage for the Americans is the venue—Nicklaus's Muirfield Village Golf Club is the site of the PGA Tour's annual Memorial tournament. Collectively the Yanks have far more rounds at Muirfield than the international team members do. Woods has won the Memorial five times. The upside of this imbalance for fans is that the players appear to be having a lot more fun than they do at the Ryder Cup. The repartee between teams is more spirited and the play is less defensive, which often makes it better—especially for the Americans, who tend to tense up at Ryder Cups. Woods's record, for example, is 20-14-1 at the Presidents Cup but a dismal (for the world's best player) 13-17-3 at the Ryder Cup.

None of this is to suggest that the internationals are conceding. "I'm getting tired of getting killed out there," Scott said. "Maybe we can find the formula this week and get over the winning line," Els said Tuesday, referring to how the Europeans seem to have figured out how to win at the Ryder Cup. "Then maybe it [the Presidents Cup] can really take off."