Rory McIlroy insists he is no more important than any of his Ryder Cup team-mates amid fighting talk from the Americans that they will target the world No 1 at Gleneagles this week.
US Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson said at the start of the week that McIlroy is one of the “big dogs” the Americans want to bring down in a bid to gain a psychological advantage in the battle for the 40th Ryder Cup.
But in a response that echoes what he said two years ago at Medinah, McIlroy once again stressed that he is just one equal part of the European equation.
“This week I’m not the No 1 player in the world,” said McIlroy in Chicago in 2012, at a time when he was the hottest player on the planet, the reigning US PGA champion and winner of two of his previous three tournaments.
“I’m one person in a 12-man team and that’s it. It’s a team effort. There’s 12 guys striving towards the same goal. I’m just part of that.”
Fast forward two years, with McIlroy back on top of the world following four wins this year including two majors during a remarkable run of three successive tournament wins, and his answer is eerily familiar.
“I’ve got a responsibility just to put points on the board and I’m one-12th of a team unit here,” said the 25-year-old yesterday.
“I’m going to play the same role as everyone else, just to try and get points on the board.”
While Ian Poulter – the other player singled out by Watson – revels in having a target on his back, McIlroy was content to play the perfect team member ahead of tomorrow’s eagerly-anticipated fourballs.
“I have a job to do which is to go out and win points for Europe and I don’t care what number I play or who I play with,” said McIlroy. “I wouldn’t say it wouldn’t be a thrill, of course, leading the team out would be a huge buzz and a great thrill.
“But no matter where I play, I’ve still got the same objective, which is just to win my match.”
Asked to put himself in an American player’s shoes and decide whether his scalp or Poulter’s would give greater satisfaction, McIlroy added: “I think maybe in this format and in this environment and in the Ryder Cup, probably Poulter just because how good his record is.
“I know Watson has been talking about targeting us two but there’s 10 other world-class players that he has to worry about. They can try and target us all they want, but there’s guys alongside us that can do just as good a job.”
Ryder Cup countdown: Page 20.