Rory McIlroy denies that Tiger Woods confronted him over his claim that he’d “fancy his chances” against the world No 1 this week.
Sources close to the American claim that Woods took McIlroy aside in the locker room at Cog Hill during last month’s FedExCup play-offs and said: “Be careful what you wish for.”
But McIlroy, who insisted yesterday that Woods’ has lost his aura “a bit”, shot down the rumours.
Asked if he’d received a Woods warning in person, McIlroy said: “No, no no.”
But he did concede that Woods is easily wound up when players criticise his play.
Rory said: “He’s sort of built his whole career on that stuff. We all remember Stephen Ames and Rory Sabbatini. I suppose I might be too honest at times but that it just how I feel. That’s it.”
Woods appears to have taken McIlroy’s remarks personally.
Asked for a reaction to the 21-year old’s desire to face him this week, Woods leaned towards his microphone and said only, “Me, too.”
And when asked if he’d like to elaborate, Woods said “no”, making it obvious that he was sending a clear message to the youngster he’s tipped to become world No 1 some day.
McIlroy raised eyebrows last month when he said that he’d “love” to face Woods at Celtic Manor - “unless his game rapidly improves.”
The young Ulsterman then threw more fuel on the fire by adding: “I think anyone in the European team would fancy their chances against him.”
Last week, McIlroy continued the tough talk when he said: “It would be great to take someone like Tiger Woods down. Whoever I come up against from the American side, I will be ready for them.”
US skipper Corey Pavin reckons McIlroy is playing with fire by winding up Woods as he believes it will fire him up and make him play better.
Pavin said: “Anything that motivates players is great. You don’t need a lot of motivation in the Ryder Cup but if the players take it as motivation and use it in a positive way, it’s great.”
McIlroy made his comments on Woods just a week after the American shot a career worst 18-over par in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone.
I mean, you’ve got to realise, I said those things the week after he had just shot 18 over at Akron, so he wasn’t playing too well at that time. (Laughing).
Yeah, he’s obviously getting his game together, and he’s working with Sean Foley and he’s making a few swing changes. I said this week and last week; I don’t mind who. I just want to win points against the team. If that’s against Tiger or Phil or Steve Stricker or Hunter Mahan or whoever, you just want to go out there and try to play as best you can. I feel as if I play to my potential this week, I’ll win a few points.
European captain Colin Montgomerie does not believe that McIlroy has tried to get under Tiger’s skin.
He said: “Rory is a very confident young man and he just said he’d like to face Tiger Woods in the singles. That’s a one in 12 chance of happening because you can’t put it out that way.
“Tiger’s the one name that all my team will be looking for when the singles draw comes out on Saturday night.
“Rory said what he said because Tiger is not winning the tournaments that Tiger is used to coming in here winning. I can understand that.
“But at the same time, Tiger Woods is Tiger Woods and you have still got to beat him. I am just delighted that he is part of this competition.”
McIlroy elaborated on Woods’ in a interview published yesterday by PGATOUR.com.
Has the aura surrounding Tiger changed among the players?
It’s definitely changed for me. There were guys saying when he shot 65 in the first round of The Barclays that he was back, but one round of golf doesn’t mean that. He still has 14 majors, but instead of being the best player in the world he’s one of the best players in the world now. And with everything out of the way now I’m sure he can concentrate on his game.
But he was the guy you grew up idolizing?
Yeah, I wanted to be like him and I had a poster of him on my bedroom wall.
You’re not intimidated by him or haven’t been?
I haven’t had the experiences that Sergio [Garcia] or Ernie [Els] or [Phil] Mickelson had playing against him like that with him beating me down the stretch. The same is true for A.K., [Rickie] Fowler, Dustin [Johnson] as well. I think the guys that are coming out are not as mentally scarred.