GLENEAGLES, Scotland (AP) — The relationship between Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy has changed off the course and in the Ryder Cup.
McDowell said Tuesday the personal issues that developed over a lawsuit against their former management company have been sorted out to the point that “we’ve both come out of the other end better friends.”
And the change in the Ryder Cup is a matter of McIlroy emerging as golf’s best player.
They seemed to be a perfect fit when the duo from Northern Ireland first were partners in the Seve Trophy in 2009, and then at two Ryder Cup matches. McIlroy always looked up to McDowell as a big brother, and McDowell was comfortable in that leadership role.
That has changed. McIlroy is a big star, a winner of four majors and the No. 1 player in the world.
“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,” McDowell said. “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.”
McDowell’s game is built around his iron play and his putting. McIlroy, who at times doesn’t exhibit any flaws, is the prototype power player. They still might play together at Gleneagles, though it would likely be in foursomes.
“I found the better-ball format very difficult with him because he likes to go first,” McDowell said. “He’s 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 I find myself throwing myself at it, and it didn’t help my game much at Medinah. Foursomes, I think, is different. I think we could still play foursomes really well together.”
SEVE’S INFLUENCE: Looking up the fairway from the first tee, players at the Ryder Cup will be hit with a quote from Seve Ballesteros that is written on the back of the grandstand behind the green on No. 18.
“As a player and captain,” it says, “these are unforgettable moments when you are competing for your team-mates, your country and for the people of your continent.”
More than three years after Ballesteros’ death, the European team is still gaining strength from the memory of the Spanish great, who was synonymous with the Ryder Cup. Ballesteros was a key motivation for Europe in its come-from-behind win at Medinah in 2012 under the captaincy of Jose Maria Olazabal, his longtime playing partner.
“Seve lives with us,” European player Thomas Bjorn said. “He lives with the Ryder Cup more than anything, but he lives with us as a team. He’s a huge inspiration to this team and he always will be.”
FURYK’S PARTNERS: Jim Furyk has played in the Ryder Cup eight times and already has had 14 partners in team play. That includes one year in which he played with Tiger Woods all four matches. Furyk has played with nine of those partners in only one match.
So does that mean Furyk can be paired with anyone? Or the captain has a hard time finding the right fit?
“I like to look at the positive side of that. I’m like the utility infielder that leads off now,” said Furyk, his language turning from golf to baseball. “I take it as a compliment. I just think my temperament, being a veteran in these allows me to kind of move around and be a bit of a chameleon and fit into some different situations, and I have taken that as a compliment by most captains.”
Getting a 15th partner is close to a sure thing this week. For starters, he has already been partners with only two other players on this U.S. team — Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler. Besides, he played Tuesday with Patrick Reed and is likely to be with the rookie at some point Friday.
MICKELSON MOMENT: The question was about Tiger Woods. The answer turned into an anecdote on Phil Mickelson.
Woods was asked last week what he will not miss about the Ryder Cup, and he mentioned the jokes and pranks that Matt Kuchar plays on his teammates. Kuchar was asked for an example, and turned it around on Mickelson.
“The greatest thing I witnessed is when Phil Mickelson throws down the ultimate gauntlet when he doesn’t have a comeback to whatever you’ve said. He just says, ‘Well, I’ve won so many majors, (chew) on that,'” Kuchar said. “He can only say that if Tiger is not around. He kind of has to look over both shoulders and make sure, because then Tiger gives him his number.”
Mickelson has won five majors. Woods has won 14.
JUNIOR RYDER CUP: The Americans can at least go home with one trophy. They won the Junior Ryder Cup for the fourth straight time.
The outcome was never in doubt Tuesday at The Blairgowrie Golf Club after the Americans took a 7
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