- Last Updated: 3:36 PM, September 29, 2010
- Posted: 11:29 PM, September 28, 2010
NEWPORT, Wales — Every time Rory McIlroy opens his mouth and starts talking about Tiger Woods, it sounds as if he thinks the world’s No. 1 ranked player is washed up.
One minute the curly-haired lad from Northern Ireland is saying he’d “love to play” against Woods at the Ryder Cup, and now he’s talking about how the aura Woods once enjoyed “is probably gone.”
Woods has heard McIlroy’s chatter and it sounds as if he’s ready to do something about it at the 38th Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor. When someone asked Woods yesterday for his reaction to McIlroy wanting to play against him this weekend, Woods responded yesterday with a curt, “Me, too.”
Woods smiled while he said it. It was one of those steely-eyed “Bring it on” grins that suggested he’s ready to make the 21-year-old have a little more respect for his elders. After failing to qualify for the Tour Championship, Woods spent last week working with swing instructor Sean Foley and has arrived in Wales feeling as good about his game as he has all year.
“We worked a little bit over the weekend and did some good work,” Woods said. “[I] feel good coming in.”
He’s coming into the most unique Ryder Cup of his career. It’s his sixth overall, but first since missing the Americans’ 2008 victory at Valhalla because of a knee injury, his first as a captain’s pick after not earning enough points to automatically qualify; and his first since his well-publicized sex scandal that ultimately caused his divorce.
His troubles on the golf course prompted McIlroy six weeks ago to suggest that “anyone in the European team would fancy their chances” against Woods at the Ryder Cup. Woods reportedly was irritated enough by the comments that he confronted McIlroy in the locker room at the BMW Championship earlier this month and essentially told him, “be careful what you ask for.”
Whether McIlroy — who pointed out yesterday that his original comments came after Tiger bottomed out at Firestone and that he believes the world’s No. 1 eventually will win again — and Woods ever meet will be determined by the pairings for four-balls and foursomes on Friday and Saturday and singles matches on Sunday. Still, McIlroy likely added extra motivation for Woods to play well here, not that he needed it.
This is Woods’ last chance to salvage something out of this year, a chance to erase the notion he doesn’t have the passion for this event that other players have. Coming through for Corey Pavin, who selected him with one of his four captain’s picks, and shutting up McIlroy would be a welcomed happy ending.
“It would be great to get a win and I’m looking forward to getting out there and contributing and hopefully get some points and hopefully we can get this thing done,” Woods said.
His Ryder Cup record of 9-13-2
is as mediocre as his attitude has seemed toward the event, something Woods attributed to his age difference with former teammates. Now only Jim Furyk, 40, and Stewark Cink, 37, are older than Woods, 34. “Most of the guys that I played with my rookie year are now on the senior tour,” Woods said.
The way McIlroy has talked about him, you might think Woods is ready for the senior tour. But that may not be the only taunts he hears this week. The European crowd might have its say over Woods’ off-the-course transgressions.
“He’s likely to hear some things that aren’t very nice and could be upsetting,” said NBC golf analyst Roger Maltbie. “We hope that’s not the case. But I think he has to be prepared for that.”
Pavin has said he might not play Woods in all five matches as he has done in every other Ryder Cup. Part of it will depend on how well he drives the ball during his opening four-ball match.
“Whatever captain puts me out there however many times, hopefully that’s as many points as I can earn,” Woods said.
And maybe he can shut up McIlroy in the process.