GLENEAGLES, Scotland — Rory McIlroy knows that Tom Watson's squad will be gunning for him as the star of Team Europe at this year’s Ryder Cup, but the World No. 1 merely shrugged at being in Team USA's crosshairs.
For years, Tiger Woods was the player everyone wanted to beat, but with Woods sitting out this year’s Ryder Cup as he recovers from back injury, that dubious honor seems to have passed to McIlroy and teammate Ian Poulter, who boasts an overall Ryder Cup record of 12-3-0.
“I know Watson has been talking about targeting us two and whatever, but at the same time, it's only one-sixth of the team,” McIlroy said at this press Wednesday. “There's ten other world-class players that he has to worry about, as well, and they are just as capable of putting points on the board for Europe. They can try and target us all they want, but there's guys alongside us that can do just as good a job.”
Though Watson said last week that if "you knock off the big dog, you give your team a boost," McIlroy dismissed the notion that winning a point from him meant more than winning a point from any of his teammates. Asked specifically about Woods, McIlroy sought to put the issue to rest.
Q: I think this target business is really about whether beating somebody is worth more than a point, as they used to say about Tiger. I guess my question to you would be: Are you any more worth more than one point, a target, however you look at it?
RORY McILROY: Someone beats me, they win a point … It's not different at all. It's the same. They win a match against me, they get a point, no more, no less.
McIlroy is coming off the finest season of his career, having won back-to-back major titles at the British Open at Royal Liverpool and the PGA Championship at Valhalla, so many observers expect the 25-year-old Northern Irishman who said he enjoys being the player that “everyone is focusing on” to lead off the team Friday, but McIlroy is leaving European team captain Paul McGinley to worry about that.
“That's completely Paul's decision,” McIlroy said. “You know, I have a job to do which is to go out and win points for Europe, and I don't care what number I play or who I play with. I've got a responsibility just to put points on the board, and I'm one-twelfth of a team unit here … I wouldn't say it wouldn't be a thrill, of course, leading the team out would be a huge buzz and a great thrill. But no matter where I play, I've still got the same objective, which is just to win my match.”