Ryder Cup no longer an exhibition, says McIlroy

WHEN you’re young and impressionable, there’s always the danger that you might say something you later regret.

Rory McIlroy has had one or two of those moments, like when he stated that he looked forward to representing “Team GB” in the 2016 Olympic Games. That went down like a lead balloon with many people throughout Ireland. And then there was his remark during last year’s Irish Open when he seemed to dismiss the Ryder Cup as “an exhibition”.

Once again, many wondered where he was coming from.

However, now that his first appearance in the match is little more than a week away, he is seeing the error of his ways.

“That comment was made in the middle of last season when the Ryder Cup was the last thing being talked about,” he reasoned. “Once it’s coming closer and the excitement is building, it is going to be fantastic. It is definitely not an exhibition but it is good for golf and it is a great spectacle.

“All I was trying to say is I just want to go there and enjoy it and that’s what I am trying to do. I could go next week and win one out of five matches and still win the Ryder Cup, so I might not actually play very well but still be part of a winning team whereas in a major, you have got to play well to win.

“I love the team aspect of these matches and I had forgotten how good they can be when I played in the Vivendi Trophy in Paris last year. It’s great to share a win with 11 other guys.”

McIlroy has spent the last couple of days playing in a celebrity pro-am at the Archerfield Links in Scotland promoted by Darren Clarke and Ian Botham in aid of leukaemia and breast cancer while also putting in a lot of work on the range, as was the case yesterday morning, when he was out early working under the watchful eye of manager Chubby Chandler.

Having performed outstandingly well in the Vivendi Trophy and later in the World Cup (they finished a shot behind their Ryder Cup teammates Francesco and Edoardo Molinari), the great likelihood is that McIlroy will partner his fellow Ulsterman and good friend Graeme McDowell in the foursomes/fourballs. He has, however, had no assurances on that score, his only conversation with Colin Montgomerie was a congratulatory call he received from his captain after shooting 64 in the Deutsche Bank tournament in Boston.

“I will have a better sense when we get there next week,’’ he said. “I am very close to G Mac and I would certainly like to play with him in one or two of the matches. It worked well last year at the Vivendi and the World Cup. Whoever Monty feels I am best playing with, I really don’t mind. I want to go out there and win some points.”

McIlroy also fancies the idea of taking on Rickie Fowler, another 21-year-old, and, if you like, his counterpart on the American team.

“We were also on opposite sides in the 2007 Walker Cup,” he recalled. “He is a great guy and a great player and I think it was a good move on their parts to bring him into the side. He will be a big addition to their team and will relish the challenge.”

McIlroy and Fowler are Ryder Cup rookies and there are five more in the European squad and four in the American line-up. McIlroy, however, sees little point in focusing on such matters, stressing how much experience all of them already have under their belts.

“There’s a lot of talk about the rookies on the team but you know there is still a lot of experience in there with Westwood, Jimenez and Harrington, even Poulter, G Mac has played one before,’’ McIlroy said.

“Then you have the vice-captains, Clarkie, Sergio (Garcia), Thomas Bjorn, Paul McGinley. It is great to have people like that around the team and in the team. They will have a big role to play during the week.

“I am definitely going to be listening to these guys. Martin Kaymer is a rookie but he is also a major champion and I have played decent enough this year. There are rookies on the team but it is not like it is our first experience at a big event. I am sure we will be fine and perform very well.”

McIlroy will be just one of eight Irishmen in the European team room along with Pádraig Harrington, McDowell, vice captains Paul McGinley and Darren Clarke and caddies JP Fitzgerald, Colin Byrne and Ronan Flood.

While acknowledging how well the Irish have done in the event, he claimed: “It’s not something I’ve been looking at. What’s important is having people you get on with around you. JP will do his job as my caddie. He has experience of one Ryder Cup and it was a good one when helping Paul McGinley to win the match in 2002 but it’s not just JP, everyone has a role and once the gun goes, it’s up to myself to keep the nerves and emotions under control and if I can do that, it’s all I can really ask of myself.”


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