McIlroy and McDowell kept apart
Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell were kept apart on Tuesday as Europe's players prepared for their first official practice rounds ahead of the 40th Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.
McIlroy and McDowell have been regular partners in team events since 2009, winning three of their four matches in the Seve Trophy and also representing Ireland in the World Cup that year and 2011.
The Northern Irish duo have also played six times together in the Ryder Cup, including the very first match at Medinah two years ago, and would seemingly make an obvious pairing at Gleneagles.
However, European captain Paul McGinley said on Monday that their record of two wins, three losses and one half from those six matches meant they were not a formidable pairing "written in stone", and Tuesday's practice line-up offered hints about possible alternative partnerships.
With the 12-man team split up into four groups of three, McIlroy was alongside Medinah hero Martin Kaymer and Spain's Sergio Garcia, with McDowell alongside France's Victor Dubuisson and Sweden's Henrik Stenson.
It was no surprise to see good friends Justin Rose and Ian Poulter in the same group with local favourite Stephen Gallacher, with Thomas Bjorn, Lee Westwood and Jamie Donaldson making up the other threesome. All three played in the Wales Open last week, with Westwood and Donaldson playing together in the first two rounds at Celtic Manor.
Europe were due to practice at 11am with the American team starting at 9:30am and split into three groups of four.
Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson, who played three matches together at Medinah, were out with Matt Kuchar and Jordan Spieth, while Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson, Hunter Mahan and Patrick Reed made up the second group.
Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson, who won all three of their matches two years ago, were out with Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker.
McDowell reiterated that the court case involving McIlroy and his former management company - which also represented McDowell - was not an issue and in fact had made their relationship stronger.
But he admitted that things had changed on the course following McIlroy's rise to prominence.
"The dynamic has changed significantly from the first time we ever played together back in 2009, when perhaps the older brother/younger brother leadership role that maybe I had with him, that's changed," McDowell told a press conference on Tuesday.
"He's the world's number one player. He's a four-time major champion. The dynamic between him and I is changed forever. He would now be the leader of the two of us and perhaps the dynamic doesn't work as well as it did in the past.
"Perhaps I'm the kind of guy that needs that leadership role a little bit, who needs to feel like he is at least on a level with the guy he's playing with."
With that in mind, McDowell admitted he could well partner Dubuisson this week, adding: "Yes, I would very much embrace the task of blooding a guy like Victor and I would love to play with him. We are talking about potentially that happening and I'm one of a few guys that could potentially do that."