McIlroy plays down 'Intimidator' tag
Golf:Rory McIlroy has dismissed the idea that he fills Tiger Woods with fear, even though Woods, tongue firmly in cheek, has started calling him “The Intimidator”.
On the eve of their latest clash, one with a $10 million jackpot at the end of it, McIlroy simply laughed today when asked about comments by Greg Norman.
Australia’s former world number one sparked a debate heading into the Tour Championship in Atlanta by offering the opinion that Woods now realises he is not the best player in golf any more.
“What I’m seeing is that Tiger’s really intimidated by Rory,” Norman said in an interview. “I think he knows his time is up.”
Asked for his reaction, current number one McIlroy, winner of three of his last four events, said: “No, how can I intimidate Tiger Woods?
“I mean, the guy’s got 70-whatever PGA Tour wins, 14 Majors, he’s been the biggest thing ever in our sport.
“How could some little 23-year-old from Northern Ireland with a few wins come up and intimidate him? It’s just not possible. I don’t know where he (Norman) got that from, but it’s not true.”
McIlroy does not think he has ever been intimidated by Woods either, though.
“I don’t think intimidated is the right word, more just in awe of his achievements, but never intimidated.”
The Tour Championship is the last leg of the FedEx Cup play-offs and McIlroy and Woods are paired together again because they are first and second in the standings.
It is winner-take-all between them despite McIlroy storming to victory in the last two tournaments.
In fact, the top five on the table - Nick Watney is third, Phil Mickelson fourth and Brandt Snedeker fifth all know that if they win on Sunday they not only take the tournament first prize of $1.44 million , but also the FedEx bonus of $10 million.
And such is the system that all 30 players in the field, including McIlroy’s Ryder Cup team-mates Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia, all have a chance of scooping the bonus payment.
For many fans, of course, this week is just a warm-up act before Europe defend the Ryder Cup at Medinah in Chicago.
A singles clash between McIlroy and Woods there would be the hottest ticket in town and both are keen to see it happen.
“That would be fun,” said Woods, who on Norman’s comments stated: “It’s not like somebody is going to take your block off. This is a different kind of sport, we play our own game and see where it falls at the end of the day.
“In tennis you can do that (intimidate) because you are playing against somebody. Here nobody is affecting your shots.”
On a possible Ryder Cup duel, McIlroy stated: “It’s about the team, it’s not about one guy playing another guy. Of course there are a lot of people that would like to see it and it would be very exciting to be a part of. But I just want to win as many points as possible for Europe and that’s all I can really do.
“I’m not going to sit here and lie and say I wouldn’t enjoy it because I would. But I think that’s up to the captain to decide where I play and where he wants to put me and whatever decision he makes is good with me.”
McIlroy does not mind in the least that he finds himself paired with Woods again tomorrow at East Lake.
“It’s great,” he added. “Every time that we get paired up I’m obviously very excited for it, it’s a great buzz around the group. It’s still a great thing for me. You’ll have to ask him if he feels the same way.”
Woods knows he cannot match McIlroy’s recent results, which have included a runaway win in the last Major of the season, but is happy enough with his current form.
He came third in the Deutsche Bank Championship and fourth in the BMW Championship to set himself up for a crack at a third FedEx Cup title.
“This has been a really good season,” said Woods, who after two winless years on the PGA Tour has captured three tournaments.
“I’m now one of the better drivers - that’s exciting for me - and my short game is starting to come around too, which is nice.”