Ryder Cup 2012: Rory McIlroy plays down Ryder Cup role

By Tom FordyceChief sports writer at the Medinah Country Club

Rory McIlroy insists he is neither Europe's team leader nor their marked man in this week's Ryder Cup clash at Medinah Country Club, Chicago.

McIlroy is the only multiple major winner in Jose Maria Olazabal's team and consequently the most recognisable European golfer in the United States.

But the 23-year-old said: "This week I'm not the number one player in the world, I'm one player in a 12-man team.

"There are 12 guys all striving towards the same goal, I'm just part of that."

McIlroy, who has two major victories to his name, added: "I don't think my role is a leader in the team room. I think it's more a leader out on the course, to try to get points on the board.

"There are a lot more guys that have played more Ryder Cups than me and are more experienced in the team room, who know when to speak up and have different views on things."

McIlroy's team-mate Ian Poulter, playing in his fourth Ryder Cup, could be one member of the European team who fulfils that task.

Almost certain to draw the heat from the partisan home crowds - 40,000 are expected each day around Course No.3 - Poulter was happy to stoke the fires ahead of Friday morning's opening foursomes.

"We are all good friends but there's something about the Ryder Cup that intrigues me," said the 36-year-old.

"How you can be great mates with somebody but, boy, do you want to kill them in Ryder Cup.

"It's going to be intimidating but it's going to be brilliant. I wouldn't want to be in any other situation this week - it fills you with pride and passion to go out there.

"I get very proud to pull this shirt on and have that crest on my chest. I want to give it my all - I just love it."

Fourteen-time major winner Tiger Woods and Ryder Cup team-mate Jim Furyk, as well as former US captain Paul Azinger, have all said that McIlroy will be targeted by the US team this week.

But the Northern Irishman, who won the US PGA Championship by eight shots six weeks ago, believes he has matured as a player and a man since his Ryder Cup debut at Celtic Manor two years ago, when he won only one of his four matches.

"I don't think I have a bullseye on my back," said McIlroy, who is the youngest in the visitors' ranks by a full three years.

"I think it's a huge compliment that people are saying they want to beat me, but whoever wants to take me on can take me on.

"Last time, after the first 11 holes I was very anxious. I was very tentative, trying not to make a mistake instead of just going out and freewheeling it and playing the way I usually do.

"It's going to be different this year. I'm going to go out and give it a go, to enjoy it.

"I definitely have more confidence in myself as a player than I did two years ago. I'm a lot more sure of myself and sure of my ability, so I think the feeling will be different going on to the first tee here on Friday."

McIlroy appeared underwhelmed by the Ryder Cup at this stage two years ago, saying he would rather sink a winning putt at a major than against the US.

Now he has done that twice - he also won the US Open in 2011 - his views have come into line with those of Englishman Poulter.

"Celtic Manor opened my eyes," he said. "It's just a very different atmosphere - being part of a team, not playing for yourself, playing for your 11 team-mates, your captain, your vice-captains, your country, your continent.

"It's a big deal. I realised that last time in Wales. You can just see that by the celebrations when somebody holes a putt and the emotions that are generated.

"You don't see anyone getting this excited about any other golf tournament, and that's what makes it so special."

Friday, 28 September (all times BST)

23:59-02:00 - BBC Two & BBC HD channel - Highlights from Day One

Saturday 29 September

11:00-13:00 - BBC Two & BBC HD channel - Repeat of Day One highlights

23:59-02:00 - BBC Two & BBC HD channel - Highlights from Day Two

Sunday 30 September

14:00-16:00 - BBC Two & BBC HD channel - Repeat of Day Two highlights

23:00-01:00 - BBC Two & BBC HD channel - Highlights from Day Three

Monday 1 October

19:00-20:00 - BBC Two & BBC HD channel - Repeat of Day Three highlights


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