MEDINAH, Illinois (Reuters) - Northern Irish world number one Rory McIlroy plans to lead by example out on the course at this week’s Ryder Cup but says he prefers to play a background role in the European team room.
While McIlroy is the only multiple major winner in the 12-man European lineup, he knows he still has much to learn about the Ryder Cup as a 23-year-old making only his second appearance in the biennial competition.
“There are leaders on our team who will lead with experience,” McIlroy told reporters on Wednesday before heading out on to the par-72 layout at Medinah Country Club for the second day of official practice.
”The way I’ve played the last couple of years, I don’t think my role is a leader in the team room; I think it’s more as a leader out on the course and trying to lead in that way. Try to put points on the board and try to get my point.
“There’s a lot more guys that have played more Ryder Cups than me and are more experienced in the team room and know when to speak up and have different views on things. I‘m still getting to know and still learning about the Ryder Cup.”
Wet behind the ears though McIlroy might be when it comes to the cut-and-thrust of Ryder Cup golf, he is the game’s hottest player having triumphed three times in his last five PGA Tour starts.
He romped to a staggering eight-shot victory in last month’s PGA Championship at Kiawah Island to claim his second major title and is a targeted player by the United States at Medinah this week.
”Obviously, he’s a marked man,“ U.S. Ryder Cup veteran Jim Furyk said last week. ”He’s the number one player in the world. He’s going to garner all the attention, as well he should. He’s played phenomenal this year.
“He’s right now the present-day Tiger Woods where everyone’s eyes are on him.”
McIlroy, who produced a 1-1-2 record on his Ryder Cup debut at Celtic Manor two years ago, prefers to view the team competition in a broader context.
”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,“ the mop-haired Northern Irishman said. ”It’s a team effort. There’s 12 guys all striving towards the same goal. I‘m just part of that.
“I don’t think I have a bull‘s-eye on my back. I think it’s a huge compliment that people are saying they want to beat me and whatever. Whoever wants to take me on, they can take me on.”
Asked how many points he had targeted for himself this week, McIlroy replied: ”I just want to go out and try and win all my points. That’s all I‘m thinking about.
”I don’t have a number. I don’t have a total. With the U.S. playing here at home, I think they are the favourites. 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. If I play on Friday morning, I just want to go out there, get my point and then take it from there.”
The 39th Ryder Cup will start on Friday with the opening foursomes and McIlroy is widely expected to be paired with fellow Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell, with whom he earned one-and-a-half points from a possible three two years ago.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Frank Pingue