Tuesday 20 February 2018

I'd still love to partner Rory at Ryder Cup despite 'strain', says Graeme McDowell

Rory McIlroy (left) and Graeme McDowell in action in China last year
Rory McIlroy (left) and Graeme McDowell in action in China last year
Graeme McDowell says he would 'love to play with Rory at the Ryder Cup' despite the ongoing dispute which has strained their relationship. Photo: Tony Marshall/Getty Images

Karl MacGinty

GRAEME McDOWELL revealed yesterday how Rory McIlroy's legal battle with Horizon strained their relationship, but insisted it would not follow them onto the golf course or into Europe's Ryder Cup camp.

Intense speculation has surrounded the former Seve Trophy and Ryder Cup playing partners since McDowell's name was brought into Commercial Court proceedings by McIlroy's lawyers last month.

Though "stuck in the middle" of the dispute, McDowell said he'd "love to play with Rory at the Ryder Cup," or at any other time, adding that any differences were "all business" and "not personal".

Speaking at Royal Liverpool GC in Hoylake, where he and McIlroy are among the top contenders in this week's British Open, McDowell said: "A lot has been made of our relationship based on legal proceedings between Rory and Horizon.

"Yes, I've got a foot in both camps because I'm loyal to Horizon and everything they've done for me over the last seven or eight years.

"I'm also very loyal to Rory as a good friend, as a partner in Ryder Cups, et cetera, et cetera.

"It's been a strain on our relationship, no doubt about it. We're not the same as we used to be," conceded the Portrush man.

"Until the legal proceedings are over and done with, there's always going to be that little bit of tension in the air, because Colin (Morrissey, of Horizon) is with me and Sean (O'Flaherty, formerly of Horizon but now tour manager at Rory McIlroy Inc) is with Rory and we just don't have the same relationship.

"But there's nothing personal between us," he stressed. "It's all business. I respect Rory as the player he is.

"I understand that things can get messy on the business side, especially when you are talking big numbers."

"I'm very keen for him and Horizon to clear things up so we can all get on with the rest of our lives.

"Would I love to tee it up with him at Gleneagles? Absolutely! Do I respect him as a player? Yeah, he's an incredible golfer and I expect our relationship to pick up where it left off as soon as the proceedings are over and done with.

"The only thing that exists is a tension between two camps, if you like, and I have a foot in each. So when it comes to things that are going on between him and Horizon, with my contracts involved and things like that, that's just business.

"When it comes to the Ryder Cup I'd love to play with him. That kind of tension is not going to be there. There is no personal tension."

McDowell is adamant that he "didn't try to sell" Horizon Sports to the Holywood native after he left International Sports Management in 2011.

"Rory will tell you this, I was a neutral," he said. He said he advised McIlroy to "make his own decision" and that "I'd love to have you, love to see you be successful whatever happens." The rest, McDowell said, "is all legalities and stuff."

As for the Ryder Cup, McDowell explained the only issue he needs to resolve is "me getting my ass on the team. When it comes to that team room, there's always a queue out the door to see who's playing with Rory. I want to be that guy, because it means we're getting out there and we're winning matches."



RORY McILROY was savaged in the Scottish tabloids yesterday after an off-the-cuff remark in a press conference.

Asked at Royal Aberdeen last week why he'd skipped the last few Scottish Opens, McIlroy gave a candid reply.

"I missed out on Castle Stuart the last few years because I didn't really feel like it provided a true links test," said the Holywood native.

"Even though I haven't been, I watched on TV, it was quite an American-style golf course, big, wide fairways, big undulating greens," he added. "I didn't think it would prepare you as good as maybe going and playing some of the other top links courses there are in the area."

This raised hackles around Inverness. Castle Stuart general manager Stuart McColm said: "The disappointment for me is Rory's never been here, so I don't know how he can say something about a course he's never seen," said McColm.

It was perfect tabloid fodder and one headline roared, 'Castle Stuart Rip Into McIlroy: "You haven't a clue what you are talking about."'

McIlroy is drawn with Hideki Matsuyama and Jordan Spieth for the opening two rounds of the Open at Hoylake. Shane Lowry sets out on Thursday afternoon with Chesson Hadley and Ollie Fisher.

Irish Independent

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