Ryder Cup: The USA want to target me? Bring it on, says bullish Rory McIlroy

Belligerent McIlroy, who is now well aware of the power of the Ryder Cup, eager to get points on the board

Medinah

Rory McIlroy is growing into the role of golf's big beast. If the Americans want to target him, let them. McIlroy skipped on to the Ryder Cup stage here at Medinah unrecognisable from the uncertain, even shy youth who made his debut at Celtic Manor. There, he had still to be convinced of the power and authenticity of Ryder Cup mythology, wasn't sure what all the fuss was about.

He has a better understanding now, not only of the scale of this event but of his role in it. McIlroy has been the focus of American interest. The points-scoring begins long before the first shot, and, to borrow from the Ryder Cup lexicon of Ian Poulter, McIlroy is the one with the biggest bull's eye on his back. Great. Bring it on, he says.

"I think it's a huge compliment that people are saying they want to beat me and whatever," he said yesterday. "Whoever wants to take me on, they can take me on." This is just the flavour of belligerent rhetoric required to douse American flames. Bombast does not come easy to McIlroy, but he is learning the law of the golfing jungle and with two majors under his loin cloth, the second coming just a month ago at the PGA, the chest-beating is justified. It comes with due deference to his team-mates, a hallmark of the European team ethic.

"There are guys that have played more Ryder Cups than me and are more experienced in the team room. I don't think my role is to be leader in the team room. The way I have played the last couple of years it's more a leader on the course, to try to win my point and put points on the board.

"I don't have a number, a total (in my head)," McIlroy said. "The US are a strong team and with them playing at home, they are favourites. We have to play very well to have a chance. So if I play on Friday morning I want to go out there, get my point and take it from there."

The "if" was diplomacy. McIlroy will feature in the opening foursomes almost certainly alongside Graeme McDowell, with whom he was paired on the opening day of practice on Tuesday. Few know better than captain Jose Maria Olazabal about the importance of chemistry to a pairing. Playing alongside Seve Ballesteros, Olazabal formed the most potent twosome the event has known. He would not want to disturb the equilibrium of a pairing that draws on friendship as well as roots.

Lee Westwood has enjoyed great success with Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia in previous Ryder Cups. Assuming the combined 59 Westwood and Donald shot in taking money off Poulter and Justin Rose on Tuesday is significant then Olazabal's big decision is who to pair with Garcia tomorrow morning. He will not be short of volunteers. As McIlroy maintained, the sense of camaraderie in the European team room is overwhelming. He checked in his No 1 ranking at the door.

"This week I'm not the No 1 player in the world. I'm one person in a 12-man team and that's it. It's a team effort. There's 12 guys all striving towards the same goal. I'm just part of that. I just want to go out and get a point for the team, whether that's going out first, fourth or in the middle it doesn't make a difference to me and it does not make a difference who I play. I'm going to go out there and give it my best to win that point."

If you infer from that the view that McIlroy is ready to take on all-comers, you will not be contradicted. For all-comers, read Tiger Woods, in whom the American team continues to invest everything. "As I said earlier I'm just going out to win my point. If that's against him or someone else, it doesn't matter."

This is the real strength of McIlroy. He has mastered all doubt. He knows that when he reaches for that extra gear and finds it, he is beyond the reach of all. And this feeling of personal empowerment is significantly enhanced in the team setting. "Playing at Celtic Manor opened my eyes. The majors are still the tournaments I want to win but I got to the Ryder Cup in Wales and my perception changed.

"I'd been to Ryder Cups to watch and I know how exciting they are, but until you are actually involved it's different. When you stand on that first tee on Friday morning, everyone screaming your name, you see how important it is to everyone. You are not just playing for yourself, you are playing for a lot of other people. That's what makes it so special and so important."

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions