Graeme McDowell has weighed in on the Ryder Cup storm kicked up by fellow Ulsterman when he said he rather win a World Golf Championship than the Ryder Cup.
Quizzed over the 21-year-old Holywood man’s remarks on yesterday morning’s Alan Brazil show on Talksport radio, McDowell said McIlroy will have a different respect for the competition after playing in the event for the first time next week.
“Rory is an extremely ambitious kid and he’s all about major championships and WGCs,” he said.
“I think he’ll have a different respect for the Ryder Cup next weekend when he gets out there.
“I’m hoping to play with him in a few matches and when he gets out there next weekend and feels it and understands it — it’s just something a bit special.
“Money aside, obviously we don’t get paid a penny, the Ryder Cup is just such a special, special event and it’s always been something that’s pretty close to my heart.
“I think when Rory gets out there and feels it next week he’ll maybe have a different view on it.”
McIlroy and McDowell are widely expected to be paired together next week at Celtic Manor by European captain Colin Montgomerie, although Monty is sure to have been unimpressed by the Holywood man’s latest outburst.
McIlroy will play a couple of practice rounds with McDowell and probably Ryder Cup vice-captain Darren Clarke in Northern Ireland this weekend before heading for Celtic Manor on Monday.
And although he still says he places the four Majors and the World Golf Championships ahead of the Ryder Cup, he says he can’t wait to take on the Americans.
“Obviously it's my first experience of a Ryder Cup and one I'm going to try to enjoy,” he said.
“Hopefully the adrenaline will make me play well.
“I'm going to be very nervous over my first tee shot, but once you get that out of the way all you are thinking about is winning your match.”
McIlroy's enthusiasm for the match was called into question when he described it as “an exhibition” last year.
Winner of four points out of five for Britain and Ireland against Continental Europe in the Vivendi Trophy last September, he said:
“I sort of forgot how good it was. We won and it was great to share the win with 11 other guys.
“Next week is going to be fantastic. It's definitely not an exhibition, it's a great spectacle.
“I said exhibition last year when I was not focused on a team event.”
Three of his victories at the Vivendi Trophy came with McDowell as his partner and all of them were achieved going out first.
Asked about the likelihood of them being put together again he added: “I'm not sure. I will have a better sense when we get there.
“It worked well last year and I'd like to, but whatever Monty thinks I don't mind.
“I'm very close to ‘GMac' and I think we would both love to partner each other. Hopefully we'll get a couple (of games) and try to make the most of it.”
McIlroy is one of six uncapped players, the most Europe have had since 1999, but he points out: “There's a lot of experience with Lee Westwood, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Ian Poulter and GMac's played one.
“Then you have the vice-captains (Sergio Garcia, Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley and Thomas Bjorn) and obviously Monty. It's great to have people like that in and around the team.
“They will have a big role to play. I don't know how I am going to be in the team room, but I will definitely be listening to those guys. Martin Kaymer is a rookie in the Ryder Cup, but a major champion. It's not like it's my first experience of a big event. I think we will be fine.”
McIlroy also says that missing on the last event in the FedEx Cup play-offs, this week’s Tour Championship in Atlanta, is a blessing in disguise.
“I was not my normal self in America the last couple of weeks,” he said.
“I needed to refresh my mind and I definitely feel I will be going into the Ryder Cup in a better frame.
“That's when I get my best work done and I'm very happy with how it all went.”