Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell have gone out of their way to present a united front to the world as the countdown begins to the Ryder Cup.
With questions being asked about the exact state of their relationship given that McIlroy’s lawyers have demanded details of McDowell’s contracts with Horizon Sports Management as part of their bitter court feud, they clearly felt the need to shoot down those questions before arriving at Gleneagles.
McDowell used his regular BBC Sport column to address an issue that Paul McGinley shot down as far back as July, insisting that he’d received assurances from the Northern Irishmen that their business tensions would not be a problem at the Ryder Cup.
McIlroy said last week that McDowell was still a good friend and an unwitting victim, caught in the legal crossfire.
But McDowell went even further in his column, insisting that the tensions of the last 18 months have brought them close together:
“Yes, it has been a rough time over the last couple of years on the business side of things for both me and Rory because he has been involved in a lawsuit with my management company.
“And it certainly has put a stress on our relationship, but we have put those things behind us this year. If anything, our friendship has been strengthened by what we have experienced.
"We have talked about it and we would certainly love to renew our partnership again. Who wouldn't want to team up with the guy who has played the best golf all summer?”
There has been speculation that McDowel could partner French rookie Victor Dubuisson at some stage, prompted by comments he made after losing to the golf’s d'Artagnan in the WGC-Accenture Match Play in Arizona early this year.
“I am certainly ready to play with whoever captain McGinley chooses and, of course, that list includes the man I have partnered in the last two Ryder Cups. And he just so happens to be the best player in the world right now.”
McIlroy was expected at Gleneagles last night having watched George Groves outpoint France's Christopher Rebrasse at Wembley Arena on Saturday night and then spent Sunday morning talking football and golf on Sky’s Goals On Sunday.
He touched on many subjects, includlng dancing during the Medinah celebrations (“It was a bit of a soft shoe shuffle. All my rhythm is in my golf swing!”), arriving 11 minutes before his singles at Medinah (”It was pure panic…') and the importance of winning the 2014 Ryder Cup (“Personally for me it would be the icing on the cake. It’s already been a fantastic year.”).
Just about everyone wants to play with McIlroy at Gleneagles and the 25-year old world No 1 gave little away, though he did insist he’d love another chance alongside McDowell.
“I’m very lucky in that I get along with a lot of the guys. Graeme McDowell is a big friend of mine. Poults I’ve played with before. Sergio Garcia is another one, we’ve got a good chemistry so there’s a few guys that I can play with.
“You might see a few interesting pairings next week. I’m not going to give too much away here. We’ve good a good mix of guys; some rookies and some with lots of experience so I think the pairings we have will be very strong.”
McIlroy edged out pal Rickie Fowler as the player of the summer but he expects the US star to be the key player for Tom Watson’s side in Scotland.
“Ricky Fowler is going to be a real talisman for the American team,” McIlroy said. “Bubba Watson, Keegan Bradley. Phil as well, he’s the elder statesman. Jim Furyk too he’s been playing well.
“Even though everyone has been talking about Europe being favourites, they have a very very strong team. We can’t be complacent at all. We have to go out there and play as hard as we can do.
“They’ll be up for it, they’ve lost four of the last five and especially having Tom Watson as a captain. That will galvanise them anyway, that will bring them together having legend like that leading them so that will be tough.”
McIlroy also spoke at length about football with his boyhood hero, former Manchester United player Teddy Sheringham alongside him as a guest on the soccer chat show.
“Ever little boy has a dream of being a professional footballer,” McIlroy said. “I definitely imagined myself as a professional footballer kicking around a football in the back garden scoring goals for Manchester United. I’m right-footed but I like to play on the left wing and cut in. I’ve got a bit of speed. I imagined I was Ryan Giggs, I’ve even got the hair for it.”
On his appearance on the pitch at Old Trafford and THAT suit:
“TV doesn’t do that suit justice. Sir Alex gave me dog’s abuse! That suit was a personal choice. Some of the stuff we’ll be wearing at The Ryder Cup is similar – Tartan… Hopefully Poults hasn’t designed it.
Commenting on Man United’s start to the season, before watching them lose to Leicester City:
“The start hasn’t been what they’ve wanted but there’s been some really positive signs like in that game against QPR and getting some of the players back that have been injured like Luke Shaw, he’s going to make a big difference when he comes back so it’s been a tough start to the season but they’ve showed some very good signs and hopefully better things to come.”
On which footballer he’d want to be paired with at The Ryder Cup:
“Maybe Di Maria or Falcao. It would have to be Wayne Rooney. He works so hard, he’s so determined. He never gives up on a ball so it would have to be him.”
On Man United’s and his drop in form:
“I’ve been given a lot of grief from my Liverpool supporter friends but everything goes in phases and cycles so it’s inevitable you’re not going to stay the top the whole time. That’s the nature of sport and that’s the great thing about sport. Man United and Man United fans expect but you have to be realistic and say you are going to go through spells like this. I started last year as World No 1 and dropped to 10 or 11. You just need something to click and go right all of a sudden and then you get some momentum on your side and some confidence you can start to build again like we did against QPR last week. That could just be the little spark that they needed to take off again.
“It’s all about having perspective. Being tenth or eleventh is not like anything went drastically wrong. It’s not like I lost my tour card I just wasn’t playing as well as I could. It’s just a matter of practising and waiting for that spark or that one tournament. It could even be one round to happen and to go right and you get some momentum and you just go again.
On his win at last year’s Australian Open sparking his comeback:
“You’re used to winning Majors. You’re used to being up at the top and all of a sudden that’s not happening anymore. You always want to get back there. The Australian Open last year was my turning point. I went down there I felt like I was playing well but I hadn’t won in 2013 it was my last event of the season and I went head to head with Adam Scott for the last 36 holes was able to win come out on top and beat him on the last hole on Sunday and it was a great way to end 2013 which had been a difficult year and then this year took off. I feel that was a really important week for me.
“There was a two swing going in to the last hole. I held a really good putt on 17 to keep it at one shot he would have been two shots going into the last and I wouldn’t have had a chance. He made a mistake and I capitalised on it. And all of a sudden I got the win that I needed. At the time he was World No 1, Masters champion so for one of the first times in my career I was the underdog. It was a nice feeling. He had all of the crowd as well. So it was nice to be able to go down there and get that win.
“I was able to hold on to the World No1 for a year obviously I want to try and prolong that as much as I can. I feel I’ve got back to World No1 in the middle of the summer and I’ve built a nice little lead so I want to just try and keep that going for as long as I can. I don’t really think about the ranking so much anymore. If you keep winning tournaments that takes care of itself and that’s what I really just want to do. Just keep on winning as many tournaments as I can.
On how he copes with the pressure on the course:
“That’s one of the toughest things in golf, the walking between shots. That’s when you need a good caddie in those situations and I like to talk about different things to take my mind of it. I like to switch on and off in between shots. If you try and concentrate for five hours out there it’s very very tough. So I like to switch off and talk about other things until I get maybe twenty yards from the ball and switch back on to golf mode and think about my next shot. It could be anything and my caddie JP is a Liverpool fan so we do have a few football chats on the course. And when you’re in the shot I don’t like to think about the situation the outcome or the result. You just focus on what you can control. As Teddy says when you see that left footed volley when it drops there all you’re thinking about is technique and what you’ve always done and practice and not about scoring a goal to win a game. It’s about hitting that shot you’ve hit a million times in practice.
On pressure on the 1st tee
Before the first shot I get nervous. It doesn’t matter if it’s before The Ryder Cup or the Irish Open or whatever, if it means something to you you’re going to get nervous and that’s a good thing it’s a natural thing but once you hit that first tee shot you’re in the zone, you’re in your mode and all that goes away.”