Ryder Cup no match for majors: McIlroy

Rory McIlroy created a huge furore when he called the Ryder Cup “an exhibition” last year.

“It’s not and it never will be,” responded Colin Montgomerie on being told the young man’s view. “But please don’t start a big war against Rory McIlroy.”

The 21-year-old from Northern Ireland will be able to speak from experience after he makes his debut under Montgomerie’s captaincy at Celtic Manor.

But while you should not expect to hear the word “exhibition” from his lips again, do not anticipate McIlroy changing his mind on where the match fits into his pecking order.

“If somebody asks me whether I’d rather sink the winning putt in the Ryder Cup or win a major, it’s the major every day,” McIlroy said.

“World championship or Ryder Cup? Win a world championship,” he added after hesitating only slightly longer.

That smacks of Tiger Woods’ attitude when he said in 2002 that he could think of “a million reasons” – the size of the cheque – why he would choose a world title ahead of beating Europe.

Woods had played in the match twice by then and had clearly not warmed to it.

There is every chance that McIlroy will, especially after his obvious enjoyment at being part of a successful Britain and Ireland team at the Vivendi Trophy - the old Seve Trophy – against Continental Europe last September.

“That just reminded me how good and special team golf is,” said the young star. “I played in a lot of Irish teams and then in the Walker Cup and they are all very important to me.

“I suppose not playing team golf for a couple of years I’d put it to the back of my mind a bit.My mind wasn’t completely on team golf when I said what I said. I was trying to concentrate on my own game and that’s sort of why it came out the way it did.

“It’s nice to be able to celebrate with mates and that would be the best thing about the Ryder Cup as well. The result is obviously important to the guys involved and important for the European Tour.

“Everyone’s up for it and I will be come the week. It’s not just for yourself - you’ve got your 11 team-mates, the backroom staff and everybody, so there is a lot of energy going around the team room.

“But at the end of the day you’re going to be remembered for what you achieve in an individual sport.

“When I was a kid growing up practising on the putting green I never had a putt to win the Ryder Cup. I always had a putt to win the Masters or a putt to win the Open – it’s just the way I feel.”

McIlroy also originally offered the opinion that “I’m not going to go running around fist-pumping,” but cometh the hour it might be very different.

“I played my first Masters thinking ’I never want to miss one of those again’ because it was just incredible. If the Ryder Cup does the same for me then so be it,” he added.

His captain at the Vivendi Trophy was Paul McGinley and he certainly got the best out of McIlroy, pairing him with compatriot and close friend Graeme McDowell just as Montgomerie may well do.

In four of the five sessions they were sent out first and came back with maximum points.

“If I played number one in the other (the second day fourballs) I would have been five out of five,” he joked.

Montgomerie will be looking forward to seeing such bravado when his side gathers in Wales - and he is also certainly looking forward to seeing McIlroy play in the match, exhibition or not.

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