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McIlroy the ‘marked man’ of this Ryder Cup
McIlroy is the first European in nearly 20 years to go into the Ryder Cup as the No. 1 player in the world, although the star power of this 23-year-old from Northern Ireland is defined by much more than a computer ranking. He already has won two majors, with a record score in the U.S. Open last year at Congressional and a record margin at the PGA Championship last month at Kiawah Island.
His four wins this year are the most of anyone in the world, all against the strongest fields.
So it was no surprise when Jim Furyk referred to Boy Wonder as the “present day Tiger Woods” and a “marked man” at this Ryder Cup. That’s the role Woods played for so many years in these matches when he dominated golf. There was a feeling among Europeans that beating Woods was worth more than one point because of the emotional lift it gave the rest of the team.
McIlroy doesn’t see it that way.
“This week I’m not the No. 1 player in the world,” he said Wednesday. “I’m one person in a 12-man team, and that’s it. It’s a team effort. There’s 12 guys all striving toward the same goal. I’m just part of that.”
But even in this team competition, it’s easy to get wrapped in a single star, as it was for Woods.
There’s only one way to keep score in the Ryder Cup, though it’s tempting to make individuals accountable. Even when Woods was at his best, he still could only deliver a maximum of five points if he played every match. He never came close, and didn’t even produce a winning record until his fifth Ryder Cup.
“I don’t have a number. I don’t have a total,” McIlroy said. “I think with the U.S. playing here at home, I think they are the favorites. It’s a very strong team. So we know we have got to go out there and play very, very well to have a chance. So if I play on Friday morning, I just want to get my point and then take it from there.”
Wednesday brought the Ryder Cup one day closer to the start of matches that are growing in anticipation. Both teams look strong on paper, with all 24 players among the top 35 in the world. The Americans are loaded with experience behind Woods, Furyk and Phil Mickelson. Europe has only one Ryder Cup rookie, Nicolas Colsaerts, and has the experience when it comes to winning. It has captured the cup six of the last eight times.
And while captains Davis Love III and Jose Maria Olazabal have preached civility and respect throughout the week, leave it to Ian Poulter to set the record straight on how the intensity can change when the first tee shot is struck Friday morning.
“It’s not that we don’t like each other,” the Englishman said. “We are all good friends, both sides of the pond. But there’s something about Ryder Cup which kind of intrigues me, how you can be great mates with somebody, but boy, do you want to kill them in Ryder Cup.”
Poulter is not alone. Among the four American rookies is Brandt Snedeker, coming off an $11.44 million payday for winning the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup.
“I’m very, very competitive,” Snedeker said. “People don’t get that, because I’m polite. But I tee it up on Friday here _ tee it up against anybody _ I’m going to try to beat their brains in as bad as I can.”
Love brought the first dose of tears to Medinah when talking about the time spent Tuesday night at a team dinner, when he showed a video of past captains and spoke of the camaraderie in the team room. Then, he dressed his team in bright red pants for a practice session of foursomes, keeping together the same partnerships he had the previous day. Olazabal mixed up his team ever so slightly, with Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia together. They are 4-0 in foursomes.
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