Tuesday 20 August 2019

'We're looking to beat Team USA not Tiger Woods' - Rory McIlroy insists he wasn't intimidated by 14-time major winner's comeback

Team Europe's Rory McIlroy during a press conference. REUTERS/Charles Platiau
Team Europe's Rory McIlroy during a press conference. REUTERS/Charles Platiau
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy insists he was more intimidated by the penal rough than Tiger Woods' stunning comeback win at the Tour Championship.

The 29-year-old began the final day at East Lake three shots behind the 14-time major winner but fell away after some poor driving saw him finish six behind.

McIlroy knew what the inference was when asked whether he was intimidated but he expertly avoided the question.

"That East Lake rough was really tough. That was the most intimidating thing about it," he said ahead of his fifth Ryder Cup appearance at Le Golf National this week. "I didn't have a good view from the trees so I could not see what was happening that much.

"This week he is one of 12. We're not looking to beat any one individual and to focus on one player is silly, especially as I might not even see him this week.

"I don't want to speculate how he's going to play or how he's going to do but it's given their team some momentum coming over here. But we're looking to beat the USA team not Tiger Woods."

The Americans are favourites to retain the trophy they won on home soil two years ago and McIlroy believes there has been a distinct change in their team dynamic.

"The strength of Europe has been we all get behind one another, even whatever differences we have we put them to the side for this week and we are a cohesive unit," he added.

"That has served us well for the Ryder Cups we've had success in. We've won a little more than we've lost in the last few years.

"The American team is very strong and the dynamic has become a little more cohesive in the last few years and I think that is to do with the younger guys coming on board and embracing the Ryder Cup.

"Jordan (Spieth), Rickie (Fowler), JT (Justin Thomas) and those guys spend a lot of time together and it seems the togetherness is there a bit more than it was in the 1990s and 2000s."

Sergio Garcia does not believe he has anything to prove after being a wildcard pick by captain Thomas Bjorn for his ninth Ryder Cup.

"I don't think so. At the end of the day the captain's picks are not easy but they know what they want to choose," he said.

"I think I have proved myself over and over and the only thing I can do when I get called upon is do my best and do what I've done at Ryder Cups."

Part of Bjorn's reason for selecting Garcia was the influence he has in the team room.

Asked whether he had a special role to play this week, the Spaniard added: "I think I do, from experience, from the way I am, the way I enjoy a team event, I think that is probably to be totally honest one of the reasons why they decided to have me on the team - not only what I do on the golf course but what I bring outside of that."

Garcia was asked his opinion on the prospect of the USA reinstating the disastrous Woods-Phil Mickelson pairing from 2004.

"If we beat them it would be good for us, if we lose it will be good for them," he said.

"Is it good for the Ryder Cup? I have no idea."

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