McGinley doubts over McIlroy and McDowell

Rory McIlroy has been a better ally for Paul McGinley than he has been for Graeme McDowell. Picture: Fran Caffrey/

European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley said last week that he'd be "very surprised" if world No 1 Rory McIlroy and fellow Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell din't play together adding, "I'm not going to write it in stone."

Fast forward a week and it now appears that we will be surprised if they play together at all. The reason? Their record. 

Why McGinley has suddenly realised that McIlroy and McDowell have not got the greatest Ryder Cup record is anyone's guess. In six matches together — three in Celtic Manor and three in Medinah — the Ulster duo have won two, halved one and lost three, which is not the greatest record in the world.

"Three or four months ago, I had a very strong view that they would [play together]... But the more I look at their statistics and the more I look at the different value I have with them, I'm thinking there may be a value in not doing it," McGinley said.

"But if I don't do it, it certainly won't be because of any issues [regarding McIlroy's legal issues with Horizon Sports Management].

"As both of them have said, there are no issues between them and both of them will be happy to play together but it will be my decision ultimately."

McGinley's thinking is almost certainly prompted by the stature of the two men in the game.

When they played together at Celtic Manor in 2010, McIlroy was eighth in the world and just 21 while McDowell was playing in his second Ryder Cup and arguably the hottest European having just won the US Open and a string of tour events.

At Medinah both were of equal status with McIlroy a US Open champion and the world No 1.

Now, Mcllroy is easily the most dominant player in the world and a clear world No 1.

Pairing two strong players together when they haven't got the best record may deny McGinley the opportunity to pair them with less experienced men and spread his strength through his team. 

As McDowell explained at Gleneagles on Tuesday morning, the dynamic between the two has changed.

"I think myself and Rory, there's no doubt our personal issues have been well documented the last couple years. And I believe that we've both come out of the other end of that probably better friends than we were going into it. So our personal issues are not a problem this weekend, so that's a fact. I think tactically, you know, Rory and I's golf dynamic has changed significantly from the first time we ever played together back in 2009 or at the Seve Trophy, whatever it was, when perhaps the older brother/kind of younger brother leadership role that maybe I had with him, that's changed.

"He's the world's No. 1 player. He's a four-time Major Champion. The dynamic between him and I is changed forever. He would now be the leader of the two of us and perhaps the dynamic doesn't work as well as it did in the past.

"Perhaps I'm the kind of guy that needs that leadership role a little bit, who needs to feel like he is on at least on a level with the guy he's playing with. I'll be the first to admit it. Medinah a couple years ago, and Rory and I spoke about this, I found the better ball format very difficult with him because he likes to go first, I let him at it, and I kind of comes second.

"You know, he's standing there beating it 350 down the middle, and I put my tee in the ground thinking there's not really a lot of point in me hitting this tee shot and find myself throwing myself at it, and literally it kind of didn't help my game much at Medinah playing better-ball with him. Foursomes I think is different. I think we could still play foursomes really well together.

"I love playing off his tee shot, as anyone would, 350 down the middle works everywhere, every week, as he's shown that lately. There's no doubt the dynamic, and I've spoken to McGinley about this, as well, because he felt like himself and Harrington were the same way.

"They gelled well as a partnership in their early days, but when Harrington became the star, the dynamic changed from a tactical point of view. It just didn't work so well anymore.

"So I kind of feel that's kind of the way Rory and I are viewing this week. I think the great thing and the bad thing on our team this week is that we have so many options. Like I say, that's a great problem. It could be construed as a tough thing, as well, because the pairings are not so obvious this week, and the captain has a little bit of work to do sort of Wednesday, Thursday, in regards to putting those teams together.

"I would really embrace the opportunity to play perhaps foursomes with Rory at some point this weekend. We are both up for it. And like Paul says, though, he feels like I could be best used somewhere else, kind of like we alluded to earlier, and Rory certainly can play with anyone.

"So we might be best served apart. So, who knows. Like I say, I would love to play with him again this weekend, and we'll really see what happens, but we'll certainly do what's best for the team, as well."