Ryder Cup skipper Paul McGinley insists that Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell will “be professional” and put any possible strain in their relationship aside to team up again as partners at Gleneagles in September.
Keen to nip any potential controversy in the bud since McIlroy’s lawyers brought McDowell’s name into his fraught legal battle with his former agents Horizon Sports Management, the European captain was adamant that the Northern Ireland duo would put the good of the European team first.
Insisting that there is no major problem to deal with and that he “won’t let it become an issue in the team room," McGinley went as far as to say that McIlroy and McDowell will almost certainly play together at least once in Scotland if both make the team.
Speaking at the annual Allianz Golf Camp at St Andrews, McGinley addressed what McIlroy admitted this week was a “strained relationship” with McDowell and said: “I am just knocking that away. Honestly, I am not particularly worried about it.
“I have no worries at all. I have complete trust in both of them that if either of them have an issue, they will speak to me. That hasn’t happened and I don’t expect it to happen.
“Both of them are so professional about what they do in their golf and the Ryder Cup is a special thing. So I really don’t see a problem and I expect them to be playing at least one match together during the Ryder Cup, if both of them make the team.
“It is not going to become an issue in the team room and I won’t let it become an issue in the team room and I know the guys are going to be professional enough that it won’t be an issue.”
McGinley said he spoke at length to McIlroy last October but had not spoken to him about his legal battle with Horizon, which is not scheduled to be heard in the Commercial Court until January 27 next year.
“I am not asking questions because I don’t feel it is my business to ask questions,” McGinley said. “It is their private business and I am not getting involved.”
Asked if the unity of the Ryder Cup team would override any external problems for all three Irishmen involved, McGinley added: “Yes, that’s pretty much what I am saying. And I think my relationship is strong enough with both of them that I don’t think they are going to create any problems for me.
“I really don't think I have an issue to address. I know you guys are going to make an issue of it. But when it comes to Ryder Cup, I am going to be professional about it and they are going to be professional about it .
“And I think their dynamic as a duo has been a proven success and I would say at some stage — and I am not saying they are going to play the first morning — but at some stage during the week, they will more than likely be a partnership, if they are on the team.”
McIlroy is challenging the validity of his original December 2011 contract with his former agents Horizon Sports Management, claiming “unreasonable” fee rates and commissions.
He also argues the agreement was signed when he was aged just 22, inexperienced and without the benefit of independent legal advice.
Horizon, who still represent McDowell, deny the claims and have counter-claimed for some US $3 million for outstanding off-course gross revenues and other sums, plus damages.
In a new twist, McIlroy’s lawyers claimed two weeks ago that he got “markedly inferior” terms to former stablemate McDowell and only learned late last year that the Portrush man had share options in Horizon.
Both allegations are denied by Horizon’s legal team, who claim that McIlroy issued his lawsuit against Horizon the day before McDowell’s wedding last September and referred to the date as“D-Day.”
McIlroy denied this on Monday, insisting the “D-Day” references related to the day when the lawsuit would be filed and that the date was selected due to a “simple gap” that emerged in his busy schedule.
While the two-time major winner admitted “there’s obviously been a few things that have gone on that have strained the relationship….there’s no ill feeling towards him in any way from my side. He’s been one of my best friends on Tour and showed me the ropes.”
McGinley says he has not spoken to either player about the case, though he did have a one-hour chat with McIlroy last year.
“I spoke to Rory last October when it was well documented that him and Graeme had had a good chat for an hour in Shanghai last year,” McGinley said. “And Rory said to me, ‘I’ve had a good chat with G-Mac, all’s good.’ And I said, ‘Rory, that’s all I want to hear.’
“I haven’t spoken to him about it since. As far as I am concerned, that is what it is. I think I know the guys well enough and my relationship is so strong with both of them that if either of them have a problem, they will come to me. And neither of them have. So I don't see it as an issue. As much as they important players, they are two players out of 12 at the end of the day.
“Graeme is still not in the team so it is hard for me to talk about Graeme. We all know this game and Graeme still has a bit of work to do. But the chances are he is going to be in the team, and Rory is certainly going to be in the team. But honestly, honestly, I don’t really have a worry about it.”
On a more positive note, McGinley was delighted to see McDowell move closer to the nine automatic qualifying places for the European team and wouldn’t be surprised to see him win big over the summer with The Open, the US PGA and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational on his schedule.
“In 2010 he won in Wales and went on to win the US Open.” McGInley said. “And it was the same last year. He’s got a history of winning and then winning again shortly afterwards.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to see him picking off one of the next three or four big ones.
“I’ve been lucky in that I’ve captained him twice but also captured him in the Seve Trophy with Rory that first time.
“He’s awesome. He’s like Martin Kaymer, he’s low maintenance. He doesn’t come to you wanting this or that.”