McDowell: US aces 'need' cup glory
Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter are not the only European players with targets on their backs this week, according to Ryder Cup team-mate Graeme McDowell.
United States captain Tom Watson has repeatedly said he is looking to take down "big dogs" McIlroy and Poulter, the former being the world number one and four-time major winner and the latter earning the nickname 'Mr Ryder Cup' due to his heroics in the biennial contest.
Poulter's most recent heroics inspired the 'Miracle at Medinah' in 2012, when Europe recovered from 10-6 down on the final day to claim a remarkable seventh win in the last nine contests.
The home side are rated odds-on favourites to improve that statistic further at Gleneagles this weekend, but McDowell insists they are not acting as such and is well aware of how determined the American side are to make amends for what happened two years ago.
"I think it's an unusual scenario for the Europeans to be favourites coming into a Ryder Cup," McDowell said. "It's not a sort of label that we take lightly. We are very proud of the label.
"We watched a video in the team room last night (Monday) which really described how far the European Tour had come, all the way back from the 1950s and '60s and getting drummed year-in and year-out in the Ryder Cup, to the turning point with (Tony) Jacklin and Seve (Ballesteros) and everything that went on in that period when the Europeans started to realise that perhaps they could compete on the global stage and they could compete in Ryder Cups, to the present day.
"We are proud of the label, but we are also very aware that this is a big Ryder Cup this week, because we do feel the need for the US team to win one. We certainly feel like they will be coming at us 100 per cent this weekend and we have to be ready for that. We are not taking them lightly.
"We heard a stat last night that when both teams were solidified after the picks that their average world ranking was better than our average world ranking. It might not be the same, at this moment we might be slightly favourites again, but we are under no illusions that this team is great.
"They have a lot of young blood on their team which is going to ignite that passion that we've always had. I think we have got targets on our back this week and we are aware of that, and we are going to be ready for it.
"We are not getting sucked in by the favourite tag. We are going to play like underdogs."
European captain Paul McGinley was not quite sure what Watson meant about "targeting" opposition players in a non-contact sport, but in any case he has no concerns that McIlroy and Poulter can cope with whatever is thrown at them.
"The two guys earned that reputation," McGinley said. "They have played so well. Rory to be number one in the world and Ian Poulter with his performances in the Ryder Cup. It's not something that we should be afraid of or embarrassed about.
"I can tell you one thing, it's a real motivating factor for both of them that they know that it's a big focus on the Americans playing them.
"I think Rory has handled the expectancy on him as world number one incredibly well. A lot of the tournaments he's won, he's won from a commanding position. He seems to be very comfortable when he has the favourite tag.
"Ian Poulter is the same. Every Ryder Cup you go in and you question is Ian Poulter going to perform, and he does. His record is sensational (12 wins in 15 matches) and he's very proud of it.
"That's one of the fruits of all his labours in the Ryder Cup, to have a target on him. I think Ian Poulter is relishing that. He's relishing that fact. He likes playing the villain.
"He was the guy they all wanted to bring down (in Medinah) and he went out and produced, and not only did he produce Saturday night but he went out on Sunday and produced in the singles again."
McGinley added: "I'm going to put out the team as I see fit, and whatever comments they have and whatever ideas Tom has to motivate his team, he'll do. I'm concerned with our team and making sure we're prepared.
"I'm not targeting anybody on the American team. We know they are a very strong team one to 12 and whoever is playing this is going to be tough. We are under no illusions how strong this American team is, under no illusions whatsoever. This is going to be a tough Ryder Cup to win."
McDowell, who secured the winning point at Celtic Manor in 2010, agreed with his captain's assessment, adding: " I couldn't pick two better guys to handle that type of pressure. Rory's the best player in the world and I expect him to win several points this weekend.
"And Poults is just Poults, so he'll be ready. Bring it on."