Rory McIlroy and I will always be friends, vows G-Mac
Graeme McDowell can succeed Rory McIlroy as Europe's champion golfer this weekend, but before a shot was fired at the DP World Tour Championship, the Portrush ace yesterday insisted they remain as much friends as rivals.
McDowell was caught in the media crossfire after McIlroy quit their Dublin management company Horizon in April and their relationship became the subject of further speculation last month when the 24-year-old missed G-Mac's wedding.
As he refuted any suggestion of a fallout between two of Europe's foremost golfers, McDowell made clear his ambition to pair up with McIlroy once again at next year's Ryder Cup in Gleneagles.
Asked if skipper Paul McGinley need have any cause for concern, the 34-year-old said an emphatic "No!" adding: "There's not a problem there.
"I'd love to renew my partnership at Gleneagles with Rory, for sure. A big goal for me in 2014 is to be on that team and I expect Rory McIlroy will be on that team.
"Would I like to be teeing off with him on Friday morning in the foursomes? Absolutely! I don't think captain McGinley needs to worry about that relationship."
McDowell left absolutely no room for uncertainty as he continued: "Of course we're still friends.
"I'm inadvertently stuck in the middle of a legal matter," he went on. "I'm very close to both parties and, of course, there's going to be speculation about how that's going to affect both relationships, which is a tough scenario.
"It's tough for everyone but Rory and I will always remain competitors, colleagues, peers and friends. I care a lot about what he does. I care a lot about how good he is and that will never change."
McDowell is much more than a satisfied customer at Horizon. His management team enjoy not only the complete trust of the 2010 US Open Champion but also his firm friendship.
When McIlroy instituted legal proceedings against the Dublin firm on the week of the wedding and was not present at the ceremony in The Bahamas, instead fulfilling a commitment to do a Nike photo shoot, tongues started wagging.
Yet McDowell nailed any talk of ill feeling by revealing he and McIlroy had discussed the matter.
"We spoke a few weeks before the wedding," he explained. "Rory sent myself and Kristin a very nice congratulatory message and was disappointed he couldn't be there for a number of reasons.
"He's become very good friends with Kristin," added McDowell. "Unfortunately, there was a little negative press about it but that's just one of those things."
McDowell, currently third in the European standings, shares centre stage this week with leader Henrik Stenson, second placed Rose, and fourth-ranked Ian Poulter in what is a quadrangular battle for the Race to Dubai.
Like Stenson and US Open-winner Rose, McDowell will clinch the Race to Dubai title should he win the tournament on Sunday.
As a three-times winner on the world's elite tours this year, McDowell's would be a worthy winner if he denies Stenson an historic FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai double.