Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley won’t leave Shanghai with a boost to his Race to Dubai tally. Any prize money he wins in the BMW Masters will go straight into his bank account but won’t, as a sponsor’s invitee, count in the order of merit. He will, however, leave China knowing that whatever collateral damage Rory McIlroy’s acrimonious split from Horizon Sports Management caused to his relationship with Ryder Cup partner Graeme McDowell, it hasn’t made a hole below the waterline. No doubt, he’s pleased now that he made the decision to travel rather than take a much needed week off.
The Northern Ireland pair tackled Lake Malaren together on Thursday, battling high winds with McDowell’s polished putting game inside six feet - as well as one outrageous 100 foot effort for eagle - helped him shoot a 70 to McIlroy’s 71.
When asked for a comment on McIlroy earlier in the week in a conference call with Australia’s Herald Sun, McDowell sounded like a man jaded by the talk of his former stablemate’s annus horribilis.
“I don’t have any comment. It’s been a long complicated year for everyone (talking about the slump) so I prefer not to talk about Rory McIlroy in this conversation,” McDowell said politely.
Just 48 hours later, McDowell was raving about the state of McIlroy’s game, especially his driving, as the Daily Mail’s Derek Lawrenson reports:
‘That was like watching Rory in 2011 and 2012,’ said McDowell, who was understandably content with his own 70 given he hadn’t played for five weeks. ‘His driving was fantastic and it was ominous for the rest of us.’
As for McIlroy’s decision to announce the formation of his own company and launch legal action against Horizon Sports Management just as former agent Conor Ridge was boarding a plane for McDowell’s wedding, he hinted yesterday that mistakes of judgement have been made.
No doubt to McGinleys delight, any lingering hostility between McIlroy and McDowell’s entourage will be reserved soley for Horizon boys, or so it seems.
As reported by former Times correspondent Peter Dixon for The Independent, and by the rest of the press in situ in China, McIlroy admits he should never have missed his friend’s wedding to the American interior designer Kristin Stape.
“Obviously it wasn’t a great one to miss,” he said. “Kristin’s a great girl. In fact, she did the interior design on my house in Florida.” Was it an expensive bash? “Well, it’s not just G-Mac making the money in that relationship,” he said, looking towards his old friend and laughing.”
Having spent weeks working on a new Nike ball and club combination, McIlroy was delighted to hit the ball so well off the tee, though he did fritter a few shots away on the greens with a three-putt on each nine.
“Everything is falling back into place,” McIlroy said. I’m swinging better than I have all year and it’s good to feel so positive about my game, to keep giving myself chances. Once you find it again, it’s great.”
McIlroy wasn’t the only one to struggle on the greens. McGinley had 34 putts in his 77 while Shane Lowry had 31 and double bogeyed the 16th and 17th for a 78.
Joking on twitter, Lowry wrote: “Well, just 13 behind. On the plus side, I broke 80 and have three rounds left!”
Padraig Harrington was in the red for much of the day but bogeyed the 15th and 17th for a 72 that was good enough to leave him in the top 14 as the only three Americans in the field topped the leaderboard.
Luke Guthrie had just 19 putts in a 65 to lead by three from 47-year old John Daly and by four from Peter Uihlein.
McGiney will, no doubt, be keen to see a European overtake them over the next three days. If it’s McIlroy, McDowell or even himself, all the better.