Tuesday 20 August 2019

McIlroy and McDowell's friendship out of rough at Ryder Cup

Pals again: Irish golfers Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell. Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Pals again: Irish golfers Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell. Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Ryan Nugent

Ryan Nugent

Their friendship had cooled in recent years, but compatriots Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell looked as close as ever as they prepared to steer the European team to Ryder Cup glory this weekend in Paris.

The pair were all smiles during a practice round before the tournament tees off today.

And they were again posing for photos together at the opening ceremony at the Palace of Versailles yesterday afternoon.

It had appeared that a strain had been put on their friendship after a bitter legal dispute between McIlroy and Horizon Management - which managed McDowell - a number of years ago.

During the case, McIlroy's lawyers claimed that McDowell was a shareholder in the company and was on more favourable terms.

McIlroy enters the tournament as one of his team's star golfer, while McDowell has been named as vice-captain.

Ready for battle: The players of Team Europe and Team USA pose with their wives and girlfriends on the steps of the Palace of Versailles in Paris prior to the Ryder Cup Gala. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Ready for battle: The players of Team Europe and Team USA pose with their wives and girlfriends on the steps of the Palace of Versailles in Paris prior to the Ryder Cup Gala. Photo: Andrew Redington/Getty Images

The tournament tees off this morning, with Europe looking to take back their title from the USA, who won in Hazeltine National two years ago.

And history will be on their side, having not lost on home soil since they were defeated in the Belfry, England some 25 years ago.

But despite the convivial atmosphere among teammates, the pressing political issues of Brexit was not far from the golfers' thoughts.

Amid tensions caused by the looming departure of the UK from the European Union, the captain of Europe's Ryder Cup team said his players were an example of how the continent "stands as one".

"This is the one time when Europe is united," Thomas Bjorn said. "This is the week more than ever that flag represents the boundary of this great continent."

He added that Europe "can at times be a fragmented place, but when it comes to the Ryder Cup it's different.

"When it comes to the Ryder Cup, Europe stands as one."

Speaking after the ceremony, Denmark's Bjorn said: "Trust me, if you look at all of the United Kingdom players that are in this team, they wore that [a yellow ribbon] today because this week that's what they represent.

"That, for us, represents the boundaries of Europe this week. It doesn't represent a European Union."

His compatriot Thornbjorn Olesen will team up with McIlroy for match two of today's fourballs.

Olesen was the only Ryder Cup player without a date for the dinner between the two teams last night.

Olesen photobombed a group picture of his teammates' wives and girlfriends - including Erica McIlroy and Kristin McDowell, which was posted on the European team's Twitter account.

McIlroy and Olesen go up against world number one Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler in match two of the fourballs today.

But the Co Down man is not expected to be centre of attention at Le Golf National in Paris today. Fresh off the back of his first PGA victory in five years last weekend, all eyes will be on Tiger Woods.

However, the 14-time major winner was not the only Tiger to hit the course this week.

Junior golfer Robin Tiger Williams (17), from England, appeared particularly starstruck when he introduced himself to his idol yesterday, telling him "You're a big inspiration to me, thank you very much." Robin was born the year Tiger held all four golfing majors at once.

As it stands going into proceedings, Woods and his team - captained by Jim Furyk - are favourites to retain their title and can be backed at 10/11.

Europe meanwhile are 5/4, with a draw coming in at 11/1.

Irish Independent

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