Tiger Woods knows a thing or two about being the guy every other golfer wants to take down. The former No. 1, who has recently cultivated a friendly rivalry with the current No. 1, Rory McIlroy, said Tuesday that his new BFF can expect U.S. Ryder Cup members to take aim at the bullseye they see painted on the young Northern Irishman’s very muscled back.
“It’s part of being consistent, it’s part of being ranked number one, it’s part of winning major championships. You’re always going to want to try and take out their best player,” Woods told reporters ahead of Friday’s start to the 39th Ryder Cup, at Medinah Country Club outside Chicago. “That’s part of the deal, that’s a fun challenge and I’ve certainly loved it over the years and I’m sure he’s going to relish it as well this week.”
Woods was not the only member of Team USA to send a warning shot over McIlroy’s bow. Jim Furyk, who will make his seventh Ryder Cup appearance, warned the two-time major champ last week that he was a “marked man.
“He’s the No. 1 player in the world,” Furyk said prior to the Tour Championship, which McIlroy entered on the strength of back-to-back wins at the Deutsche Bank and BMW Championships. “He’s going to garner all the attention, as well he should.”
McIlroy is a six-time tour winner and cruised to his second major title with an eight-stroke triumph at last month’s PGA Championship. The Ryder Cup sophomore has said he planned to take a leadership role in the Euro locker room this time around, and pundits believe the path to an American victory runs directly through him — much as an American W depends on Woods.
“We’re not just playing one individual, though, we’re playing 12,” Furyk said. “[McIlroy’s] played phenomenal this year….He’s right now the present day Tiger Woods, where everyone’s eyes are on him. Tiger is still Tiger. Everyone would love to see that pairing in the Ryder Cup.”
Emily Kay is a regular contributor to New England Golf Monthly. You may follow Kay on Twitter @golfexaminer