Hair-raising day for McIlroy

An upset Rory McIlroy was given something to smile about at Celtic Manor today - team-mates and caddies wearing wigs that resembled his very distinctive curly hair.

Colin Montgomerie revealed that it was decided to make the 21-year-old “feel part of the team again”.

He explained: “I think Rory was quite upset with the comments that were made in the papers about this Tiger situation and it was getting a little bit out of hand tabloid-wise.”

The “Tiger situation” is that so much is being made of how keen Woods and McIlroy are to face each other – for what would be the first time in their careers – this week.

Europe’s captain, told by a caddie about McIlroy’s mood, added: “We decided to find seven wigs for the caddies and the players that were playing with him and then to get Rory on the first tee and make him feel part of the team again.

“That was the right thing to do. He played magnificently today, so we’re all back on level terms again.”

Earlier, United States captain Corey Pavin stated that he has no wish to pre-arrange a Woods v McIlroy clash with Montgomerie.

The nearest thing the contest has to a grudge match – apart from Woods v Phil Mickelson at table tennis in the American team room – is the world number one against the youngest member of the European side.

After hearing that McIlroy wanted it to happen, Woods replied with a smile: “Me too.”

The two captains hand in their line-ups separately – who plays whom in Friday’s opening fourballs is disclosed at tomorrow’s opening ceremony – but Pavin was asked whether they should get together on this one.

“I don’t think there’s any possibility of that,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s in the spirit of what the Ryder Cup is all about and the way the pairings are supposed to happen.

“It would be by chance or if either of us guessed right on what we wanted to accomplish.”

There are clear indications that Montgomerie will lead off with McIlroy and fellow Ulsterman Graeme McDowell in Friday’s opening fourballs.

So if Pavin sends Woods out first – as Curtis Strange did at the Belfry in 2002, Hal Sutton at Oaklands Hills in 2004 and Tom Lehman on his last appearance four years later in Ireland – it is almost certainly because he and the player himself wanted a clash with McIlroy.

Pressed on “fixing” it, Pavin added: “I don’t know if it’s really against the rules, but I think it’s just against what golf stands for.

“I just don’t think it would be the right thing to do.”

And on whether he and Montgomerie had a responsibility to provide the paying public with what they most want to see, he stated: “I think there’s 12 players on each team that are pretty darned good.

“Whatever match comes out there is going to be well worth the price of admission.

“We’ll just have to see where the cards fall, but I think it would be fun for me to watch. I’d enjoy it.

“When I’ve spoken to Tiger we haven’t talked about order or anything like that.

“All he wants is the same thing – to win. That’s what we are all here for and that’s all really he’s expressed to me in that regard.”

Pavin was reminded that McIlroy had also commented when Woods was really struggling with his game six weeks ago that everyone in the European team would fancy their chances against him.

“I think other people have said things like that to Tiger in the past and have maybe regretted it,” Pavin said.

“I think anything that gets players fired up is always a positive thing for that player who is getting fired up.

“I know that Tiger is aware of the comment. If they do play against each other I think it would be quite entertaining.

“I don’t know if they will.”

The most famous incident of Woods being provoked came at the 2006 World Match Play in California.

Canadian Stephen Ames, his first-round opponent, told a reporter that he thought he had a chance, “especially where he’s hitting the ball”.

Next day Woods won the first nine holes, seven of them with birdies, and won on the 10th.

Asked how he had reacted to what Ames said and whether it had lit a fire in him, Woods smiled and said: “9&8!”

Now McIlroy could be the one in the firing line and his hope, of course, is that Woods is still not the player he was following the off-course scandals which wrecked his marriage.

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