Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Ryder Cup: Rory McIlroy laughs off Tiger Woods row

Rory McIlroy of Europe tees off during a practice round prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 28, 2010 in Newport, Wales
Graeme McDowell of Europe tees off during a practice round prior to the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor Resort on September 28, 2010 in Newport, Wales
USA's Tiger Woods during his practice round at Celtic Manor, Newport

The Ryder Cup hype sensationally went into overdrive yesterday as Tiger Woods lashed out at recent comments by Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy.

The world No 1 is angry with the young Ulsterman for picking him out as America's weak link here this week and is determined to make the upstart pay for his insolence.

Woods has already let the 21-year-old know of his intentions. At the BMW Championship in Chicago three weeks ago he confronted McIlroy in the clubhouse and told him: “Be careful what you wish for.”

It was not uttered in jest, but in a cool manner which many will inevitably compare to notorious gangsters of that city.

McIlroy made his provocative comments last month as Woods continued to struggle with his game. “I would love to face Tiger,” he told the BBC.

"Unless his game rapidly improves in the next month or so, I think anyone in the European team would fancy his chances against him."

Woods has shown in the past how unwise it is for a rival to question his ability. There are a list of victims who have done and so and then been shot down by Woods, including Stephen Ames, Rory Sabbatini and, perhaps most pertinently, Colin Montgomerie when Tiger was on his way to winning his first major — by 12 strokes. Will McIlroy be the next to find out the hard way? Judging by Woods’s remarks yesterday, he will.

“What was your reaction when Rory said he would very much like to play against you in the Ryder Cup?” came the question. “Me, too,” came the reply.

“Care to elaborate? “Nope,” said Tiger. He didn’t have to. The smile followed by the cold stare said it all.

It was delicious theatre as a little earlier, McIlroy had sat in the very same chair and tried to put his “Tiger taunt” into context.

“You’ve got to realise I said those things the week after he’d shot 18-over at Akron,” said McIlroy.

“He was wasn’t playing too well at the time. He’s obviously getting his game together now.”

Whether McIlroy’s explanation will assuage Woods is dubious, although the suspicion must be it probably won’t when he hears what McIlroy said later: “For the meantime, I supposed a little of Tiger’s aura has gone.”

Woods has shown a particular fondness of making his golfing battles personal and that is why Montgomerie may wish to revise what many took to be his running order and not put McIlroy and his Northern Irish compadre, Graeme McDowell, first off in the Friday fourballs.

Woods will beg Corey Pavin to find the pride of Ulster in the opening morning’s draw and the US captain could find it irresistible to allow the vengeful Tiger — probably in partnership with Steve Stricker — to start off the defence of the title.

Montgomerie may also consider what the inevitable hyping of this new emnity could do to a rookie such as McIlroy and what effect a big defeat could have on both teams. Monty may well decide to tuck away the world No 8 down the order.

For someone who has not yet played in a Ryder Cup, McIlroy has certainly generated more than his fair share of headlines about the contest, infamously describing it as "an exhibition" before last year's Irish Open.

And at the same tournament this year, McIlroy told Press Association Sport: "If somebody asks me whether I'd rather sink the winning putt in the Ryder Cup or win a major, it's the major every day.

"World championship or Ryder Cup? Win a world championship," he added.

That echoed Woods' comments in 2002 when he said he could think of "a million reasons" - the size of the winner's cheque - why he would choose a world title ahead of beating Europe.

Asked today whether he regretted downplaying the Ryder Cup, McIlroy added: "I think it's probably a good thing to downplay it because it's such a big event.

"When you get here you realise the importance of it and you realise how big it is and how important it is to everyone. I don't want to let myself down this week and I don't want to let 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 I suppose.

"I don't really want to go into too much detail, but Monty gave a great speech last night in the team room. It was really inspirational and really got everyone going. He played a (video) tape and he said a few words. That started the week off on the right foot."

US Open champion Graeme McDowell insisted today European captain Colin Montgomerie had not banned his team from using Twitter but had simply urged them to "be sensible".

Montgomerie gave the advice after seeing England cricketer Kevin Pietersen, among others, get himself in trouble with comments made on the microblogging site, but Northern Irishman McDowell does not believe this amounts to a total ban on 'tweets'.

He said: "I was getting a few responses back (on Twitter) saying Monty had banned you guys, and I didn't hear anything to that effect until last night, obviously.

"Monty doesn't want to go banning Twitter or social network sites, we are all adults. It goes without saying that we are not going to say something that would unduly affect our team or give any strategy or secrets or tactics away.

"He simply just said to us, 'Be sensible. Don't be saying anything stupid'. He trusts us to obviously not do anything too stupid out there.

"I think we all realise that social networking sites go straight into the papers and straight onto all forms of media around the world. There's been some pretty famous mistakes made on Twitter in the past few months and he just said to us to be careful and obviously watch what we say.

"We are not banned, but I don't think we'll be going crazy on it, either."

Neither were there with the golf course, with its thick rough and slow greens which clearly favours the home team. “Are they slow enough for you?” Monty was heard to ask Westwood, with a laugh.

They will certainly not be to Woods’s taste. “They are a bit slow and will probably get even slower,“ he said. If only the same about his competitive spirit. McIlroy is in danger of discovering it remains razor sharp.

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