McIlroy relaxed over Woods comments

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Rory McIlroy today laughed off suggestions that he had given Tiger Woods extra motivation for the Ryder Cup by claiming anyone on the European team would "fancy their chances" against the world number one.

Speaking last month, just days after Woods had finished 18 over par in the WGC Bridgestone Invitational, McIlroy said: "I would love to face him. Unless his game rapidly improves...I think anyone in the European team would fancy their chances against him."



And the 21-year-old from Northern Ireland, who was third in the Open and USPGA Championship this year while Woods has not had a single top-three anywhere in 2010, was not about to backtrack on his comments after the opening practice round at Celtic Manor.



Asked if he was concerned his comments would motivate Woods - who has often been accused of not caring about the contest - McIlroy said: "No, I'm fine. I'm all right. You've got to realise I said those things the week after he had just shot 18 over at Akron, so he wasn't playing too well at that time.



"He's obviously getting his game together and he's working with Sean Foley and he's making a few swing changes. I said this week and last week, I don't mind who (I play). I just want to win points for the team.



"If that's against Tiger or Phil (Mickelson) or Steve Stricker or Hunter Mahan or whoever, you just want to go out there and try to play as best you can. I feel if I play to my potential this week, I'll win a few points."



McIlroy also conceded that some of the aura which once surrounded Woods had disappeared due to his poor form since the sex scandal which erupted in November last year.



"Once I met Tiger, even before last year or whatever, you sort of realise that he just is a normal guy," McIlroy added. "He's probably the best player that's ever lived, and likely the greatest player that's ever played the game.



"But you watch so much golf on TV, and you see so many things and you watch so many highlights...watching Tiger winning the Masters in '97 and winning four majors in a row in 2000/2001, you sort of don't really believe it. You put him on such a high pedestal and then you meet the guy and you realise that he's obviously an unbelievable player, but he's just a normal guy.



"Before I met him, you feel as if he's superhuman. But once you meet him you realise he's a normal guy and works hard on his game and gets the most out of it.



"But after what's happened in the last 18 months, I suppose a little bit of that aura is probably gone."



For someone who has not yet played in a Ryder Cup, McIlroy has certainly generated more than his fair share of headlines about the contest, infamously describing it as "an exhibition" before last year's Irish Open.



And at the same tournament this year, McIlroy told Press Association Sport: "If somebody asks me whether I'd rather sink the winning putt in the Ryder Cup or win a major, it's the major every day.



"World championship or Ryder Cup? Win a world championship," he added.



That echoed Woods' comments in 2002 when he said he could think of "a million reasons" - the size of the winner's cheque - why he would choose a world title ahead of beating Europe.



Asked today whether he regretted downplaying the Ryder Cup, McIlroy added: "I think it's probably a good thing to downplay it because it's such a big event.



"When you get here you realise the importance of it and you realise how big it is and how important it is to everyone. I don't want to let myself down this week and I don't want to let anyone else down this week and that's the big thing.



"You are not just playing for yourself, you're playing for 11 other guys, plus all of the backroom staff and most of Europe as well I suppose.



"I don't really want to go into too much detail, but Monty gave a great speech last night in the team room. It was really inspirational and really got everyone going. He played a (video) tape and he said a few words. That started the week off on the right foot."



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