Graeme McDowell insists he’s not at war with Rory McIlroy and still wants to partner him in the Ryder Cup in September. But despite all that he admits: "We’re not the same as we used to be."
The Portrush ace confessed that the legal battle between his agents at Horizon Sports and former world No 1 McIlroy means that his once warm relationship with his former stablemate has cooled somewhat as he's found himself trapped between two warring parties.
But he also insists it’s nothing personal and bears McIlroy no animosity on a personal level, and expects them to return to normal as soon as the case is resolved.
Clearing the air at Hoylake, McDowell said: “There’s a lot made of Rory and I’s relationship based on legal proceedings between himself and Horizon. Yes, I’m stuck in the middle. Yes, I’ve got a foot in both camps because I’m loyal to Horizon and everything they’ve done for me over the last seven or eight years.
“But I’m also very loyal to Rory as a good friend, as a partner in Ryder Cups, etcetera, etcetera.
“Yes, it’s been a strain on our relationship, no doubt about it. We’re not the same as we used to be and until the legal proceedings are over and done with, there’s always going to be that little bit of tension in the air because Colin (Morrisey, his agent at Horizon) is with me and Sean (O’Flaherty, formerly of Horizon) is with Rory and we just don’t have the same relationship.
“But is there anything personal between us? No, there’s nothing personal between us. It’s all business.
“I respect Rory as the player he is. I understand that things can get messy on the business side, especially when you are talking big numbers.
“I’m very keen for him and Horizon to clear things up so we can all get on with the rest of our lives. I can’t comment on anything that’s going on between them because that’s for the lawyers to comment on.”
McIlroy’s lawyers brought McDowell into the legal proceedings to have his contract with Horizon declared invalid when they alleged that the 2010 US Open champion had share options in Horizon and was on much more favourable terms than McIlroy in terms of the commissions and fees he paid to the Dublin-based agency.
But McDowell is adamant that he did not try to lure McIlroy to Horizon to profit from his friendship with the Holywood star.
Addressing the inference that as a potential shareholder he could have been in a position make money out of McIlroy’s move to Horizon and his subsequent $20m a year Nike deal, which is denied by Horizon, McDowell said: “That’s the perception and I’m not going to make any comment on anything like that except that when it came to Horizon Sports signing Rory, and Rory will tell you this, I was a neutral. I did not try to sell him Horizon Sports.
“I told him what they did for me. I told him it was a viable option but I didn’t try to sell Rory McIlroy Horizon Sports. I didn’t try to sell them.
“I said to him at the time, I’m going to give you my neutral opinion on things. This is what’s good about them. This is what’s bad about them.
“This is what’s good about what’s out there and this is what’s bad about what’s out there. Make your own decision.
“Love to have you, love to see you be successful but whatever happens, happens. The rest is all legalities and stuff.
“Rory and I have had several conversations about what’s going on. They’ve always been a shake of the hand, all the best, hope you get it sorted out soon, continue to play well.
"There’s been no animosity at all.”
McDowell’s stance is good news for European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley, who could have both men under his orders at Gleneagles in September.
McDowell is certainly keen to renew their partnership having tee it up with McIlroy in the Seve Trophy and the last two Ryder Cup wins — especially with their warring agents out of the picture that week.
He said: “As far as Rory and I are concerned, would I love to tee it up with him at Gleneagles? Absolutely! Do I respect him as a player? Yeah, he’s an incredible golfer and I expect our relationship to pick up where it left off as soon as the proceedings are over and done with.
“Like I say, Colin’s there, Sean’s there, Rory, me. Come the Ryder Cup, there’s no agents, there’s none of that stuff. It’s down to business.
“Could I play nine holes, 18 holes with him the next couple of days? For sure. If our schedules match-up I’d love to play with him. When it comes to the Ryder Cup I’d love to play with him. That kind of attention is not going to be there. There is no personal tension.
“The only thing that exists is a tension between two camps, if you like, and I have a foot in each.
"So when it comes to things that are going on between him and Horizon, with my contracts involved and things like that, that’s just business.
“It’s nothing to do with Rory and I personally. I didn’t write Rory’s contract and anything that’s gone on between him and Horizon is simply that … it’s between him and Horizon.”
Asked if McGinley could rest easy and forgets about one of his strongest potential pairings, McDowell said: “Absolutely.
"The only concerns they need to have is me getting my ass on the team. When it comes to that team room and, perhaps, Rory and I playing together, there’s always a queue out the door to see who’s playing with Rory, let’s be honest.
“I want to be that guy because it means we’re getting out there and we’re winning matches.”