Rory McIlroy knew the Tiger question was coming and was ready to deflect any questions of intimidation, but he insisted this weekend’s Ryder Cup was not about individual rivalries but Europe against the United States.
McIlroy faced the media at Le Golf National this morning, three days on from his final-round mauling by renaissance man Woods at the Tour Championship in East Lake when the expected heavyweight showdown in the leaders’ pairing turned into a mismatch as the Irishman faded from contention and the 14-time major winner ground out his first victory in five seasons.
Yet when the subject was raised about the possibility that there had been an intimidation factor in Atlanta, McIlroy sidestepped the Tiger inference and instead replied: “That East Lake rough was really tough, yeah.
“That was the most intimidating part about it. Started hitting a few drives left and right early, and I didn't actually have quite a good view from the trees on Sunday. I couldn't really see what was happening too much.”
Asked later whether the Europeans, who are trying to regain the Ryder Cup won back by the United States for the first time since 2008 at Hazeltine two years ago, were relishing the opportunity to go toe-to-toe with Woods in a team setting this weekend, the world number six downplayed the focus on any personal battles.
“This week, he's one of 12. We're not looking at any individuals,” McIlroy said. “We're just trying to beat the US team.
“I think to focus on one player is silly, especially when I might not even see him at any point this week because I mightn't be on the course with him or play against him. I don't really want to speculate how he's going to play or what he's going to do.
“I think it's great for the US team that he's in the mix, and it's great that it's given their team a little bit of momentum coming over here.
“You know, we're looking to beat the US team. We're not looking to just beat Tiger Woods.”