RORY MCILROY’S last competitive outing saw him battling for a £7 million payday in the Tour Championship, but the world number one is equally fired up by the thought of playing for team glory at the Ryder Cup.
McIlroy arrived at Gleneagles on Sunday evening and was among the European players practising in perfect conditions at the venue on Monday, with play due to get under way on Friday morning.
The 25-year-old famously labelled the Ryder Cup as an “exhibition” the year before his debut in 2010, but contributing to narrow victories at Celtic Manor and Medinah means he appreciates the special nature of the biennial contest.
“It’s a group of people that you know well and they all have one goal, one collective task which is to win the Ryder Cup and beat the US team,” McIlroy told BBC Radio Five Live.
“The money doesn’t matter to us any more, it doesn’t matter if we’re playing for millions of pounds all over the world. This means as much to us or even more than any other thing that we play for. It’s a big deal to us, we want to play as well as we can and try to win.
“I arrived here yesterday evening and hit some balls last night, I just wanted to get here a bit early and make sure I am prepared for Friday. It’s been a long stretch (of golf) for me.
“I just wanted to try and take as much time as I could off and get away from the game a little bit but obviously excited about this week. It will be good to meet up with all the team later this evening and I think once that happens I think we will all get into the spirit of it and be really excited.”
Just as he did in 2012, McIlroy enters the week ranked number one in the world and the reigning US PGA champion - he also won the Open at Royal Liverpool - making him a “target” for the opposition.
But the four-time major winner is not concerned, adding: “I like it. It gives me a little bit more of a boost to go out there and try and play well.
“Any time the opposition starts to talk about you is a huge compliment and I don’t mind that at all. They can come at me and hopefully I can play well enough to get a few points on the board.”
The US team arrived in Edinburgh on Monday morning, with Rickie Fowler the focus of much attention after having the letters U-S-A shaved into his hair.
Europe have won seven of the last nine contests and have not lost at home since 1993, when current captain Tom Watson led his side to victory at The Belfry.