Rory McIlroy has defended his right to switch to a new Nike driver on Ryder Cup week.
The world No.1, speaking this morning, has been seen practising with a Nike prototype Vapor driver at Gleneagles, leading some to suggest it as a risky move considering what’s on the line.
Phil Mickelson famously switched from Titleist to Callaway before the 2004 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills. He was then, bizarrely, sent out to partner Tiger Woods in both Friday fourballs and foursomes.
The American duo lost both their matches.
"I wouldn’t be putting it in the bag if I didn’t feel it was better." - Rory McIlroy
But McIlroy, a two-time major winner this year, says nobody has anything to worry about. And that’s despite admitting that Mickelson nearly hit him with one of his tee shots in 2004, when the Northern Irishman was a spectator.
“I was standing down the left side, so I’m very aware of what he did that week,” he joked.
Read more --> Ryder Cup would be the 'icing on the cake' for Rory McIlroy's season
“Look, Phil changed from one equipment manufacturer to another. This is a driver I’ve actually been using and practising with since June.
“I wouldn’t be putting it in the bag if I didn’t feel it was better.”
Rory McIlroy captivated by Sir Alex
The surprise that Sir Alex Ferguson was to speak to the European team at a dinner last night was let out of the bag when the former Manchester United manager was spotting walking down the side of the first fairway with Gordon Simpson, the European Tour’s director of communications.
Rory McIlroy, though, didn’t seem to feel as though anything had been spoiled.
"I was sort of in this trance just listening to everything that he was saying." - Rory McIlroy
“As a Manchester United fan, that was highlight of the week so far,” he said. “I was just sitting there looking up at him. I didn’t take my eyes off him. I was sort of in this trance just listening to everything that he was saying and thinking, ‘This is what he’s probably said to Manchester United teams over the years’.
“He told us a couple of stories of past experiences in some big games and big matches, and some of the players that he managed. It was a great evening, a really cool thing to be a part of.”
Rory McIlroy not afraid to lead from the front
Looking forward to the action getting underway on Friday, McIlroy, said it would be a “buzz and a great thrill” to lead the team out on Friday morning - but all he was concentrating on was just getting the job done, regardless of when he plays. “I have a job to do, which is to go out and win points for Europe. I don’t care what number I play or who I play with.”
He added: “I’ve got a responsibility to put points on the board. No matter where I play, I’ve got the same objective, which is just to win my match.”
Read more --> Our picks for Friday's fourballs direct from Gleneagles
Rory McIlroy is paired with Martin Kaymer for today’s practice session, with rumours circulating that Kaymer has been using Nike balls in practise, an indication that he may be preparing to partner the world No.1.
Nothing, though, is set in stone. The pairings will be announced on Thursday at the Opening Ceremony, which kicks off at 4pm.