Graeme McDowell insists that a “buzzing” Rory McIlroy has not been affected by his phony war with Tiger Woods.
Skipper Colin Montgomerie said this week that McIlroy was “upset” that his comments on Woods have been blown out of all proportion. But pal McDowell doesn’t see things that way and he’s convinced that McIlroy will be at his brilliant best when the Ulster duo face US pair Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar in the second fourball of the morning.
McDowell said: “Monty was probably exaggerating when he said that Rory was upset. He needs some protecting because he is a young kid but you have got to deal with these things.
“There are going to be good and bad things said so you have got to deal with it all. We are all buzzing. We are all in good form. We are all striping it.”
McDowell revealed that the Rory wigs worn on the first tee on Tuesday were not bought at the last minute to give McIlroy a boost.
“[My caddie] Kenny and I bought the wigs about two months ago. It was simply for a bit of craic and I knew Rory would take it in the spirit it was meant. As it turned out, it was good timing.”
Revealing he had goosebumps during the opening ceremony, McDowell can’t wait to get going in Friday’s fourballs.
“We are just looking forward to it so much,” he said. “We have been playing great and Monty has the whole team buzzing and we can’t wait to get on that tee tomorrow.
“Rory is playing phenomenally and I hope I can make a couple of birdies as well.”
Expecting a tough game against Cink and Kuchar, McDowell added: “Matt Kuchar has been playing great this year and Stewart is a major winner.
“Myself and Rory have a big game on our hands tomorrow but we will be trying our best to get that point for Europe as soon as possible.
“We have been laughing and joking about it for two years and it’s going to become a reality in about 14 hours.
“It is going to be great to share it with a great friend and hopefully we can put the points on the board.”
McIlroy has been looking forward to making his Ryder Cup debut for the past two years and he reckons he’s onto a winner with McDowell, who cruised to victory in the Wales Open at Celtic Manor in June.
Asked if he was excited about the Ryder Cup yet, McIlroy said: “What do you mean yet? I’ve been up for it for a long time and certainly since we got here on Monday.
“It has been a slow week in the build up but today was amazing and the first tee tomorrow is going to be pumping.”
McIlroy and McDowell were tipped to go out first for Europe but that honour has been handed to world No 3 Lee Westwood, who asked Montgomerie if he could go first in partnership with US PGA champion Martin Kaymer.
Woods joins Steve Stricker at No 3 in the order against Ian Poulter and Ross Fisher, holders of the two World Match Play titles.
Triple major winner Padraig Harrington will act as anchorman alongside straight-hitting Luke Donald against big-hitting rookies Bubba Watson and Jeff Overton.
And that suits the Dubliner as feels he can attack the course knowing that Donald will make few mistakes.
Harrington said: “It’s great to play with Luke. His consistency, especially on some of the tougher holes, enables me to open up a little more and have a bit of freedom.
“We’re both experienced players and we know what we’re doing out there. I’ve got every confidence in him and I hope he has the same in me.”
Like many pundits, Donald was surprised that Corey Pavin opted to put two rookies out in the final fourball.
But he refused to get overconfident, explaining: “It was probably the one pairing that you wouldn’t have guessed on their team. But they’re both very long hitters on a course that’s playing long so there are likely to make a lot of birdies.
“No match is easy so we’ll respect them just like we respect any opponents. Hopefully we can make a few more birdies than they do.”