Sport Golf

Saturday 20 January 2018

Pistols at dawn for Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy

Fate hands McIlroy early chance to make Mickelson eat his words on the golf course

Phil Mickelson walks in alongside Rory McIlroy ahead of the Ryder Cup Opening Ceremony
Phil Mickelson walks in alongside Rory McIlroy ahead of the Ryder Cup Opening Ceremony

Karl MacGinty

Rory McIlroy threw a couple of verbal jabs back at Phil Mickelson at the Ryder Cup banquet but today can make the lippy Californian eat his words on the golf course at Gleneagles.

As fate would have it, Mickelson has been pitched into headlong battle with Holywood's World No 1 just 36 hours after firing a cheap shot at McIlroy in the interview room.

McIlroy will have his good friend and World No 3 Sergio Garcia as his 'second' for the most mouth-watering of the four better-ball battles which get the Ryder Cup off to a rip-roaring start, with 35mph gusts and rain adding to the drama.

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Even without the pre-match needle, the Ryder Cup confrontation between these two European aces and America's hottest combination at Medinah two years ago, Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, has special resonance.

Should McIlroy and Garcia take down these 'invincibles' and spike momentum they built in Chicago, it would be a significant blow to US morale. Whereas, if Mickelson and Bradley fell Europe's finest, it would be a major fillip to the visitors.

"It's going to be a difficult match against what we perceive to be the strongest team Europe has," said Mickelson.

"We have our work cut out for us but we're on top of our games and hopefully will have a good match."

"I couldn't ask for a better partner in Sergio," enthused McIlroy, "and what a great way to start against Phil and Keegan. It really is an exciting match."

Mickelson shattered the peace on Wednesday when he stated "Not only are we (the American team) able to play together, we don't litigate against each other and that's a real plus, I feel, heading into this week."

McIlroy said yesterday: "I got a couple of jabs back at Phil at the Gala Banquet. We had a few laughs and he took it well.

"It's no big deal. That was just Phil being Phil. G-Mac and I confronted him and I had a couple of goes. It was all in good fun."

McDowell doesn't play in this morning but will team up either with McIlroy or French rookie Victor Dubuisson in the foursomes this afternoon.

Wily European captain Paul McGinley surprised pundits and opposite number Tom Watson with his four pairings, none of which have played together at the Ryder Cup.

Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson fire the first shots at 7.35 against Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson.

Irish Independent

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