EXPERIENCE comes with age and so, at 21, Rory McIlroy can be excused his odd slip of the tongue.
However, he was still made to account last night for a few less than complimentary remarks he passed about Tiger Woods a few weeks ago and his description last year of the Ryder Cup as something of an “exhibition.”
In fairness to the young man, he handles himself expertly in what for others could be a distinctly embarrassing situation.
As his past indiscretions were raised, he looked composed and in no way rattled, not even when reminded of his statement that any member of the European team would fancy taking on Tiger Woods in the Ryder Cup.
“No, I’m not bothered by that at all or that I’ve given the Americans extra motivation”, he maintained. “You’ve got to realise that I said those things the week after he had just shot 18 over at Akron, so he wasn’t playing too well at the time.
” I don’t mind who I play against, I just want to win points for the team. If that’s against Tiger or Phil or Steve Stricker or Hunter Mahan or whoever, you just want to go out there and play as best you can.”
Rory’s regard for Woods has changed from “putting him on such a high pedestal to realising that he’s also just a normal guy”.
Elaborating, McIlroy admitted: “Before I sort of met him, you feel as if he’s superhuman. But once you meet him, you realise he’s a normal guy who works hard on his game and sort of gets the most out of it.
“He’s still a fantastic guy and I’m sure he’ll get back to winning the way he used to.”
Having said all that, he backtracked just a little by adding: “For the meantime, I suppose a little bit of that aura is probably gone.”
So Rory probably still thinks Tiger could be a good man to tackle at least once over the three days.
Whether they are words that will come back to haunt him is another matter.
Yet again, though, he doesn’t get too fazed when the Ryder Cup “exhibition” word is raised once again.
“It’s probably a good thing that I downplayed it”, he reacted. “When you get here, you realise the importance of it and how big it is and how important it is to everyone.
“I don’t want to let myself down or anyone else down this week and that’s the big thing. You are not just playing for yourself, you’re playing for 11 other guys plus all of the backroom staff and most of Europe as well.
“Monty gave a great speech in the team room last night. It was really inspirational, it put the hairs standing on the back of my neck. It started the week off on the right foot.
“It was great to be part of that and it wasn’t just the players were there, the caddies and the partners as well. Everyone got a sense of how important it is for Europe and for the European Tour to win.”
Well, it’s good that the penny has finally dropped for the young man. For his fellow Ulster man, Graeme McDowell, however, playing in the Ryder Cup was always a dream that is now coming true for a second time.
He won the Welsh Open here in June and a fortnight later he was US Open champion, so obviously Celtic Manor is a place that will always hold a special place in his heart.
“Any time you win around a golf course, you have no problem visualising some nice shots and putts”, he smiled.
“The course is really well set-up and good golf will be rewarded this week and bad golf will be heavily punished.”
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