Graeme McDowell won’t hesitate to give bosom buddy Rory McIlroy the cold shoulder if they clash for Open glory this week.
McDowell has been flying under the radar since the Holywood wonder boy took his US Open title from him at Congressional last month.
And that’s just perfect for the Portrush supremo who insists he’d love the chance to freeze out his pal if they go head-to-head with the Claret Jug on the line on Sunday.
Relishing his time out of the spotlight since McIlroy’s eight-shot US Open win, McDowell said: “It’s great. Rory is my little deflector at the moment.
“He’s going to be the man with all the attention on him this week and I am back to being Northern Ireland’s No 2 player again. That’s fine by me.”
World No 9 McDowell beat McIlroy 3 and 2 to reach the last eight of the Volvo World Match Play Championship in Spain in May.
The pair hardly exchanged a word in a match McDowell described as decidedly “frosty”.
He didn’t plan it that way but now realises that it may be the only tactic he can adopt if the pair go toe-to-toe for more major glory at Royal St George’s.
McDowell said: “I’d love to go head to head with Rory down the stretch here. That would be something a bit special. Okay, you have got to golf your own ball. But you would love a go against any of the top players in the world at the minute. It is a lot of fun and I wouldn’t mind who I am dueling with so long as I am in the duel.”
McIlroy said: “He was 30 yards ahead of me after I got my drive away.”
G-Mac said: “He thought it was me but I thought it was him who was getting all frosty on me. It’s funny because I can remember thinking to myself, ‘So that is the way it is going to be.’ He didn’t talk much to me.
“It is very hard to play against one of your friends. Sometimes you have got to go the 180 degree opposite and be really cold because you get sucked into the friendly banter and all of a sudden you are not focused on what you are supposed to be doing.”
McDowell knows from experience that McIlroy will find it tough to put the US Open behind him and concentrate fully on his game this week.
And while McIlroy has been trying to dodge the spotlight by not turning up until his news conference yesterday, McDowell has been quietly plotting a way to tackle a course he described as a sleeping giant.
Assessing the pressure his Ryder Cup partner will face this week, McDowell said: “It will be interesting to see where his focus will be this week. He will want to be fully focussed on being here but will he still be at Congressional because everyone will want to pull him back there.
“Listen, I hope he goes well and if he does go well my hat’s off to him. But it’s tough to do.”
As McIlroy was packing his bags for Sandwich, McDowell was already out on the links tackling northeast winds gusting up to 30 mph.
McDowell said: “Yesterday I played this golf course, 14 holes, and it was the most beautiful weather you could ever imagine.
“You feel, ‘that could be a bit of a waste of time’ because you throw a 20 miles per hour wind across it and it is a different kettle of fish.
“So it was great to see it like that today. I think a lot of guys woke up this morning and thought, this is a test out here. It is not pleasant out there.
“It is tough, really tough and to be honest, it is great to get that reality check and realise that you are dealing with a potential sleeping giant.”