Tiger warns Rory he's a marked man

Tiger Woods speaking to the media in Medinah on Tuesday. Photo Eoin Clarke/www.golffile.ieTiger Woods reckons Rory McIlroy will be a marked man for Europe this week.

He should know. He was once that soldier.

While the American has never handled being a target well in the Ryder Cup - winning less than 50 percent of his points - he’s determined to make amends in Chicago.

With just one US Ryder Cup win from the six matches he’s played since 1997, Woods said:  “Well, certainly I am responsible for that, because I didn’t earn the points that I was put out there for.  

“I believe I was out there, what, in five sessions each time, and I didn’t go 5-0 on our side.  

“So I certainly am a part of that, and that’s part of being a team.  I needed to go get my points for my team, and I didn’t do that.

“Hopefully I can do that this week, and hopefully the other guys can do the same and we can get this thing rolling.”

Being the No 1 player in the world also means being public enemy No 1 for the opposition.

And Woods believes that McIlroy will have to learn to cope with the pressure of being a marked man in his first Ryder Cup on US soil.

Tiger warned: “It’s part of being ranked No. 1. It’s part of winning major championships.

“You’re always going to want to try and take out their best player, and that’s just part of the deal.  That’s a fun challenge.

“I certainly have relished it over the years and I’m sure he’s going to relish it this week.”

Woods and McIlroy are becoming close friends but just not this week.

Asked if he’d given McIlroy any advice on handling Ryder Cup pressure, Tiger flashed his smile and said: “Well, I’m not going to say anything; obviously he’s playing for the other team.  We can talk about it afterwards.”

Playing with a bullseye on his back, as Padraig Harrington suggested this week, might prove to be a huge burden for McIlroy.

But European skipper Olazabal is confident the world No 1 can deliver.

Comparing McIlroy to Woods in his prime, when he won 27 events and the Tiger Slam between 1999 and 2002, Ollie said: “Even though he didn’t win the FedExCup, the way he’s played the last few months has been outstanding.

“I would say that he is at this moment very close to how good Tiger was at that stretch of time between ‘99 and 2002, the way he’s playing.  

“He’s full of confidence.  He’s got the whole game, and in that regard, it’s great to have players like that on your team.”

Individual success will count for nothing on Friday and Woods knows that he has to become more of a team player and not try to carry the USA on his back.

He said: “It’s different than playing by yourself.  Playing for teammates adds an element that means so much more because it is our country, and it is our teammates.”

With two US PGA victories at Medinah, the Californian has every reason to be optimistic that he can win his second Ryder Cup this week after missing out on the US win in Kentucky in 2008.

“I’ve always loved coming here,” he said. “I enjoy playing in Chicago, and for some reason, I’ve just had a lot of success here.

“I don’t know what it is.  But I seem to be very, very comfortable here.”