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Rory McIlroy is Ryde on

By Peter Hutcheon

It is over 17 months until the Ryder Cup gets underway at Celtic Manor. The build-up began the moment the Americans won back the trophy at Valhalla last year and it will continue to dominate headlines until it begins on October 1 2010.

Old sages shook their heads patronisingly that Rory McIlroy should have the temerity to question the importance of the bi-annual event this week at Baltray.

“He’ll learn,” skipper Colin Montgomerie said after the young Ulsterman dismissed it as ‘just an exhibition match”.

One of the most impressive elements of McIlroy’s character, even as a teenage amateur, was his ability to handle the press with wit, charm and common sense.

He knew he was playing with Monty on the first two days of the Irish Open but offered up his views regardless. In other words, he knew what he was doing.

Nick Faldo may have got a lot of things wrong during his captaincy but he certainly could not be accused of taking it too seriously.

And it is Faldo’s lead — a man who won six majors — that McIlroy is following.

A generation of European golfers has grown up led to believe that to win the Ryder Cup can be the pinnacle of their careers.

It’s a theory that Sam Torrance, Darren Clarke, Montgomerie and Paul McGinley, among others, cling to passionately. And what is the obvious link? They’ve not a Major between them.

Faldo accuses today’s young players of lacking the hunger and desire required to win the four tournaments that count most. They earn too comfortable a living just turning up and playing three weeks out of four.

At its best the Ryder Cup has been a thrilling contest, particularly as a Ballesteros-inspired Europe overturned decades of American superiority.

But at its inception as a friendly match between two sets of golfers, it was never meant to be this colossus, which dominates the game like no other.

McIlroy is the first in a generation to dare break the party line and point out that the whole thing has grown out of all proportion.

I dare say he will enjoy the cut and thrust of the competition against the Americans when his turn comes.

But his sights are set on achieving much more in the game.

Remind you of anyone?

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