24 Sep 2014

McDowell and McIlroy getting on

6:03 am on 24 September 2014

Graeme McDowell says his relationship with Rory McIlroy has changed now that his fellow Northern Irishman has won four majors and is the world number one.

The pair have played together in previous Ryder Cups but are expected to be split up for the 2014 competition at Gleneagles this weekend.

Rory McIlroy playing for Europe in Ryder Cup.

Rory McIlroy playing for Europe in Ryder Cup. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

There has been much media speculation suggesting the two Northern Irish friends are not as close as they were, mainly because of the court case surrounding McIlroy's split from the Horizon management camp the pair once shared.

However McDowell insists any difference between the two of them are firmly in the past.

Europe captain Paul McGinley sent his players out to practice in four groups of three today, with McDowell accompanying French rookie Victor Dubuisson and world number five Henrik Stenson of Sweden.

Northern Irish golfer Graeme McDowell

Northern Irish golfer Graeme McDowell Photo: PHOTOSPORT

While suggesting a fourballs pairing with the 25-year-old McIlroy was unlikely against the United States later this week, McDowell stressed that a Northern Irish double act was still on the cards in the foursomes.

Europe's Ryder Cup captain, Paul McGinley, has called on Manchester United's retired manager Alex Ferguson to give a motivational speech to the defending champions ahead of this weekend's showdown with the United States at Gleneagles in Scotland.

Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Irishman McGinley said he intended to keep the move secret, but the cat got out of the bag when the legendary Scottish coach was spotted at the course overnight as the European team prepared for their first official practice round.

McGinley, a West Ham fan, says Ferguson is a big golf fan and honoured to be attending the team dinner.

Captain Paul McGinley rates his Ryder Cup team as one of the strongest assembled by Europe but he will be mindful this week of the special influence rival captain Tom Watson can exert on his United States side.

Holders Europe are considered the favourites to win the 40th edition of the biennial team event at Gleneagles especially as they boast four of the top six players in the world rankings and have won seven of the last nine Ryder Cups.

McGinley, however, sounded a cautionary note to his 12 players.

He says they're confident, they've assembled a great team, arguably the strongest European team ever, but there is a word of warning as well.

McGinley says this is a strong American team and it's not to be underestimated how strong they're going to be and they've got a real challenge ahead of them.

The Ryder Cup

The Ryder Cup Photo: PHOTOSPORT

McGinley says if you take their average world-ranking position, theirs is 16 and ours is 18 so this is not a weak American team.

For his part, Watson says the trip to the Home of Golf represented an opportunity for the Americans to banish the memory of their capitulation two years ago.

Europe trailed 10-6 going into the final-day singles but staged a remarkable fightback to win by 14-1/2 points to 13-1/2 in a match now known as the 'Miracle in Medinah'.

Watson says he's made it very clear to them that this is a redemption trip, for those players that played on that team, and it's time to make amends and try to redeem yourselves for what happened in 2012.