BEING THE TOP ranking player in the world will mean nothing when the action gets underway in the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on Friday, Rory McIlroy believes.
The 23-year-old Northern Irishman goes into what will be his second appearance in the biennial team clash between Europe and the United States having been branded by Jim Furyk as “a marked man.”
That stems from his status as the new king of world golf, sealed in a tremendous last few weeks by winning three out of four tournaments, including his second major at the US PGA Championship.
Taking his (curly mop) scalp in the foursomes and fourballs (where he is expected to be paired once more with Graeme McDowell) or in Sunday’s closing singles, would be a huge boost for US hopes.
But, asked if higher expectations should be placed on him due to his ranking, McIlroy was in no doubt.
“No, not at all,” he said.
“This week I’m not the No. 1 player in the world; I’m one person in a 12 man team, and that’s it. It’s a team effort. There’s 12 guys all striving towards the same goal. I’m just part of that.”
McIlroy is aware, however that things have moved on in no small manner since he made his Ryder Cup debut at Celtic Manor in Wales two years ago.
On that occasion he was a 21-year-old rookie, without a major win to his name, and looking for all the help he could get from his captain, his fellow-players and from the fans.
The end result was positive in the sense that Europe regained the trophy, and mixed on an individual note as he chalked up one win and one loss with two halves for two points out of four.
This time around, he has won two majors, both by eight strokes, and left an impression on the golf world unmatched since Tiger Woods first burst onto the international scene 15 years ago. Much more is now expected of him at Medinah.
Asked how best he could contribute to the Europe team effort — in the team room and out on the course — McIlroy said he would let his golf speak for him.
“I think there’s leaders on our team that will lead with experience,” said the youngest member of the European side.
“I feel like with the way I’ve played the last couple of years, I don’t think my role is a leader in the team room. I think it’s more a leader out on the course and trying to lead in that way. Try to put points on the board and try to get my point.”