GLENEAGLES, Scotland – If we are to believe the insistences coming from Camp Europe, then we should understand that Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell still like each other. They still like each other enough to overcome the former pursuing a lawsuit against the latter’s current management company and that company pursuing a countersuit. They still like each other enough to coexist in the same team room all week. They still like each other, we must imagine, to hug and sing and dance and spray champagne on each other should the opportunity present itself come Sunday evening.
They just might not like each other quite enough to play together again.
Or maybe they do and the entire account is just wildly off-base speculation.
These are the types of stories which materialize in the early hours of a Ryder Cup week, ones which might have a semblance of timeliness and relevance to them, but may just as well have little bearing on the impending proceedings.
There is some juiciness to this one, though.
During his formative years as a young professional, McIlroy often looked toward his fellow Northern Irishman for mentorship and consultation. That relationship sparked a partnership. They played three matches together in 2010, finishing with a 1-1-1 record, and three more in 2012, going 1-2-0.
But now, it could have an effect on whether they’ll tee it up together once the four team sessions begin Friday morning, despite persistent claims from all involved parties that there is no lingering palpable tension.
“There’s no doubt our personal issues have been well documented the last couple of years,” McDowell admitted. “And I believe that we’ve both come out of the other end of that probably better friends than we were going into it. Our personal issues are not a problem this weekend, so that’s a fact.”
Here’s the CliffsNotes version of the impending legal matters: When McIlroy left Horizon Sports Management to form his own management agency, his lawyers sued in part for claims that McDowell received preferential treatment. Not long after, Horizon countersued for breach of contract. Add in the gossipy tidbit that McDowell is a shareholder in the company, which means that in essence the two teammates are trying to get into each other’s pockets, and the entire process leaves a juicy subplot entering a week during which the European team has been renowned for its camaraderie.
Even so, everybody in the team room has been whistling the same happy tune.
“It's not an issue and it's not been an issue for me in terms of Ryder Cup captaincy over the last year – certainly since these court proceedings started,” team captain Paul McGinley stated. “Both of them have assured me all along that there's no issues, and that's the way I've always seen it.”
For anybody reading those words and waiting for the “but…” it came in reference to them once again being paired.
“Whether they come together or not is another story. Three or four months ago, I had a very strong view that they would have been, but the more I look at their statistics and the more I look at the different value I have with them, I'm thinking there may be a value in not doing it. But if I don't do it, it certainly won't be because of any issues. As both of them have said, there are no issues between them and both of them will be happy to play together. But it will be my decision ultimately.”
Among the massive sections of agate in this week’s Ryder Cup media guide is, unfortunately, no statistic showing how players have fared when paired together while embroiled in legal proceedings against each other. This would undoubtedly be a first in this 40th edition of the competition, but stranger things have happened over those years.
Even if it doesn’t, McDowell insists that we shouldn’t read anything more into it than an overflow of wealth on the European side, with so many players capable of teaming up with so many others.
“I would really embrace the opportunity to play perhaps foursomes with Rory at some point this weekend,” he said. “We are both up for it. Like Paul says, though, he feels like I could be best used somewhere else … and Rory certainly can play with anyone. So we might be best served apart. Who knows?”
Three days before the first meaningful shot of the week is struck, with the Gleneagles course ready to play host and so many pairings materializing so quickly, these are the types of stories which seem important right now.
Once it all begins, though, we’ll likely hear little about it. Heck, even two guys trying to get into each other’s pockets might still team up to get into those of their American counterparts.