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Ryder Cup glory is the only factor playing on Rory McIlroy's mind

By Phil Casey

Rory McIlroy's last competitive outing saw him battling for a £7m payday in the Tour Championship, but the world number one is equally fired up by the thought of playing for team glory at the Ryder Cup.

McIlroy arrived at Gleneagles on Sunday evening and was among the European players practising in perfect conditions at the venue yesterday, with play due to get under way on Friday morning.

The 25-year-old famously labelled the Ryder Cup as an "exhibition" the year before his debut in 2010, but contributing to narrow victories at Celtic Manor and Medinah means he appreciates the special nature of the biennial contest.

"It's a group of people that you know well and they all have one goal, one collective task which is to win the Ryder Cup and beat the US team," McIlroy said.

"The money doesn't matter to us any more, it doesn't matter if we're playing for millions of pounds all over the world.

"This means as much to us or even more than any other thing that we play for. It's a big deal to us, we want to play as well as we can and try to win.

"I arrived here yesterday evening (Sunday) and hit some balls last night, I just wanted to get here a bit early and make sure I am prepared for Friday. It's been a long stretch (of golf) for me.

"I just wanted to try and take as much time as I could off and get away from the game a little bit but obviously I'm excited about this week. It will be good to meet up with all the team later this evening (Monday) and once that happens I think we will get into the spirit."

Just as he did in 2012, McIlroy enters the week ranked number one in the world and the reigning US PGA champion – he also won the Open at Royal Liverpool – making him a "target" for the opposition.

But the four-time Major winner is not concerned, adding: "I like it. It gives me a little bit more of a boost to go out and play well.

"Any time the opposition starts to talk about you is a huge compliment and I don't mind that at all. They can come at me and hopefully I can play well enough to get a few points on the board."

Europe have won seven of the last nine contests and have not lost at home since 1993, when current captain Tom Watson led his side to victory at The Belfry.

Meanwhile, Ian Poulter, not McIlroy, is the man the United States will target when the Ryder Cup begins.

Poulter has won 11 of his last dozen matches, with an overall record of 12 victories and just three defeats, and has been Europe's top points scorer on his last three appearances.

Asked who they were targeting, captain Watson said: "We've got a lot of players to look at but Poulter, with his record – he's an 80 per cent victor over the series of matches he's played in. We'd like to reduce that.

"Certainly whenever you beat the stud on the opposing team that gives your team a boost, not a question, but when it's all said and done it's 12 guys out there trying to win a point each match.

"There are eight guys in the first four matches, and on the last on Sunday, 12 guys are trying to win a point.

"Basically all you have to do is win a point and a half for the entire matches and you win The Ryder Cup. That's the bottom line. That's what I'm telling my players."

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