Tuesday 24 October 2017

Do not taunt wounded Tiger, warns McDowell

Karl MacGinty

RORY McILROY has taken a grave risk by tweaking Tiger's tail in the run-up to the Ryder Cup, according to his best pal and likely playing partner at Celtic Manor, Graeme McDowell.

On his return from the recent US PGA Championship, young maverick McIlroy cheekily suggested "anyone on the European team would fancy their chances" against Tiger Woods "unless his game rapidly improves".

Yet McDowell cautioned: "I always am a bit wary about saying anything where Tiger is involved. He's the greatest player to have played the game and anyone that's said things like that in the past, it's come back to haunt them. For example, I think of Stephen Ames a few years ago."

Before playing an out of sorts Woods in the first round of the 2006 Accenture Match Play World Championship, Ames infamously said: "Anything could happen -- especially where he's hitting the ball"... and then took a savage 9 and 8 mauling for his trouble.

"I do agree with Rory to a certain extent," McDowell added: "I think he's trying to say Tiger appears less invincible now than in the past -- but you never know which Tiger Woods is going to turn up next week.

"I fully expect him to come back to form. He seems to be playing a lot better the last few weeks and I'd love to face him on Sunday afternoon in the singles with the Ryder Cup on the line.

"I'd love to be involved in a couple of matches with him but I'd always be wary about making comments against Tiger. He tends to bottle these things up, then take it out on you on the golf course."

McDowell believes Monty's team will be far better prepared for this Ryder Cup than the side which lost at Valhalla, where the Portrush man made an impressive debut.

The US Open champion didn't mention Nick Faldo, but his assessment of Monty's captaincy and the European team's failure at Valhalla are an obvious indictment of Faldo's shambolic efforts in 2008.

"I think Monty's an extremely organised and articulate guy. He's made a huge effort this year to make sure all the simple things have been taken care of," McDowell said.

"He's been paying a lot of attention. I think about Monty sitting around locker rooms all year talking to players, understanding what's going on out there.

"I think this time round, our build-up is going to be a lot more relaxed and organised. Without having to travel to the US makes it a lot easier, but I think Monty's going to be very organised and is going to run a very good ship.

"Obviously, the backroom staff is going to make a big difference this time round as well. Having guys like Thomas, Darren, Paul and Sergio as well, that's going to be unbelievable. Monty has definitely looked to see how he can improve the team and the organisation.

Faldo marched to the beat of a different drum kit. He'd just one vice-captain, Jose Maria Olazabal, and notoriously brought DJ Spooney, a British disc jockey, into the equation.

"I don't know if we just didn't have that X-factor in the team room ... someone to just stand up and rally the troops," McDowell said. "I think we'd a great team at Valhalla and I believe we played well. At the end of the day, we got outplayed by a great US side."

Irish Independent

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