GLENEAGLES (AFP) – Rory McIlroy (AFP pic below) on Wednesday warned US captain Tom Watson he would be making a big mistake if he told his players to target himself and Ian Poulter at this weekend’s Ryder Cup showdown at Gleneagles.
McIlroy is the world number one and the talisman of the European team that will aim to make it six wins out of the last seven encounters with the Americans.
Poulter is the Ryder Cup dervish who has an incredible 80 per cent winning record in the event and who almost single-handedly turned the tide against the Americans at Medinah two years ago.
As such, the Northern Irishman and the Englishman would be prized scalps for any of the American players looking to dent European resolve and confidence.
Watson understands that, saying in reference to McIlroy and Poulter: “Certainly whenever you beat the stud on the opposing team, that gives your team a boost no question.”
But McIlroy insisted that beating him or Poulter meant no more than beating any of the other players.
“I know Watson has been talking about targeting us two and whatever, but at the same time, it’s only one-sixth of the team.
“There’s 10 other world-class players that he has to worry about, as well, and they are just as capable of putting points on the board for Europe.
“They can try and target us all they want, but there’s guys alongside us that can do just as good a job.
“It’s not different at all. It’s the same. They win a match against me, they get a point, no more, no less.”
McIlroy has been the outstanding golfer in the world this year, winning back-to-back major titles at the British Open and the PGA Championship, and he is back at the top of the world rankings.
It is all in stark contrast to this time last year, when he was struggling to find his form and fully focus on his golf due to personal and business issues.
The next step is for McIlroy to transfer his strokeplay genius into matchplay prowess within the Ryder Cup team environment and play his part as the spearhead of the European team.
He feels he is ready for that extra pressure.
“I’m the sort of character that would enjoy that, enjoy that environment, enjoy being in the spotlight and being one of the guys that sort of everyone is focusing on. I like that,” he said.
“I’ll embrace that, and it comes as part of what I’ve done this year and who I am. Being number one in the world and all that comes with that, you expect that and you just try to handle it as best that you can.”
In two previous Ryder Cup campaigns McIlroy has been paired six times out of seven with fellow Ulsterman Graeme McDowell, although the signs are this time that the pair might be separated with McIlroy teaming up with Martin Kaymer in the foursomes and Sergio Garcia in the fourballs.
McIlroy insists he doesn’t care where or with whom he plays.
“You know, I have a job to do which is to go out and win points for Europe, and I don’t care what number I play or who I play with. I’ve got a responsibility just to put points on the board, and I’m 1/12th of a team unit here,” he said.