Ryder Cup: McIlroy dismisses McDowell feud fears

RORY McIlroy has dismissed as “complete nonsense” fears that there will be disharmony in Europe’s team room at the Ryder Cup in September over allegations that he “orchestrated” the timing of a lawsuit to clash with the wedding of Graeme McDowell.
Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy celebrate Europe's Ryder Cup win in 2010. Picture: Ian RutherfordGraeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy celebrate Europe's Ryder Cup win in 2010. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy celebrate Europe's Ryder Cup win in 2010. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The claim, which McIlroy vehemently denies, was made in papers submitted to a commercial court in Dublin last month by Horizon Sports Management, the sports agency the two-times major winner is suing in an action which is threatening to become increasingly bitter.

The trial is not due to be heard until January, but it was feared there may have been Ryder Cup repercussions when McDowell’s name was brought into the mix by both warring sides.

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McIlroy’s team were first to name the 2010 US Open champion in the case, claiming the terms McIlroy had been given by Horizon Sports Management were “markedly inferior” compared to McDowell, despite assurances they would get similar terms. They also claimed McDowell was a shareholder in the company.

In hitting back, Horizon Sports Management, led by managing director Conor Ridge, has claimed that McIlroy issued legal proceedings against the agency on 27 September 27, 2013 - a day before McDowell married Kristin Stape, an American interior designer, in the Bahamas.

It is also claimed McIlroy’s team referred to McDowell’s marriage in emails as “D-Day”. McIlroy’s team has denied this, insisting the “D-Day” references related to the day when the lawsuit would be filed and that the date was selected due to a “simple gap” that emerged in his busy schedule.

It’s already messy and could get worse between now and going to trial, but McIlroy, while conceding that his relationship with McDowell has become “strained” at times due to what is going on in the background, is adamant it will have no effect whatsover on Europe’s bid to hang on to the Ryder Cup later this year.

“I am still as close to him (McDowell),” said McIlroy on a visit to East Lothian yesterday to officially open the world’s first Nike’s performance facility at Archerfield Links, where he stayed during last year’s Open Championship at Muirfield. “There’s obviously been a few things that have gone on that have strained the relationship, but I still talk to him regularly and catch up with him.

“He has stayed out of everything as much as he can and there’s no ill feeling towards him in any way from my side. He’s been one of my best friends on Tour and showed me the ropes. I will always be grateful for what he’s done and for going out of his way to make me feel comfortable out here.”

Asked if there was a danger of the lawsuit affecting Ryder Cup harmony, McIlroy replied: “It won’t - that is complete nonsense. GMac knows what is going on. It hasn’t affected our relationship in any way.

“At times it’s awkward because he’s with someone (Horizon Sports Management) but, at the end of the day, we are the same two people we were. I would love to tee it up with GMac in the Ryder Cup and (European captain) Paul McGinley knows that.”

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The pair played three matches together when McIlroy made his Ryder Cup debut as part of a winning team at Celtic Manor in 2010 while they were retained as foursomes partners in the ‘Miracle at Medinah’ two years ago. Reading between the lines, McIlroy is expecting that to be the case again in Perthshire.

“I think GMac and I definitely work well for the foursomes,” said the 25-year-old, who is making his return to the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen this week for the first time since teeing up in that event at Loch Lomond in 2009.

“I think the dynamic of how both our games suits foursomes well. One (McDowell) is sort of methodical, though long enough obviously at the same time, while he can play off my tee shots most of the time, which really helps.

“In the fourballs it is more a match up of personalities than anything else because you are playing your own ball and trying to make as many birdies as you can.”

Mainly thanks to winning the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in May, McIlroy currently occupies one of the nine automatic spots in McGinley’s team while McDowell is just on the fringes after he made a successful defence of the French Open title on Sunday.

“It was great to see GMac win yesterday, especially shooting four-under on what was a tough day,” admitted his fellow Ulsterman. “I was following it on the way up from Liverpool (where he spent two days practising at Hoylake in preparation for next week’s Open Championship.

“I was listening to the Wimbledon final on the radio, but they gave the occasional update from the golf and to defend the title was good.”