Pre-Ryder Cup hype: Tiger vs. Rory

Flags fly on the back of the grandstand on the 18th green as preparations continue for the 39th...

Flags fly on the back of the grandstand on the 18th green as preparations continue for the 39th Ryder Cup golf matches at the Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Illinois, September 24, 2012. (REUTERS)

IAN HUTCHINSON, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:26 AM ET

This week's pre-Ryder Cup headlines will be no different than those before each of the FedEx Cup playoff events and indeed, many before that.

Tiger vs. Rory, the game's marquee players, one-two in the world rankings and on the PGA Tour money list, but unless you're completely star struck, it's understandable if you sit back in disbelief about their respective performances as the Tour Championship wound down.

It isn't so much that one or both will be detrimental to their teams fortunes at Medinah, more a case of whether they will be the impact players that the pre-Ryder Cup hype would have you believe.

"Not very good from the tee," said McIlroy, explaining his four-over performance in the final round of the Tour Championship at East Lake.

"You need to hit fairways around here and I didn't. I hit three fairways all day. Two fairways, I made birdie from, so that was the story of the day. I just didn't hit fairways," he said.

It might have simply been a bad day, but distance and accuracy off the tee were common features of McIlroy's two wins earlier in the playoffs at the Deutsche Bank and BMW Championship, but he wasn't the only marquee guy to fade when it counted most.

We got the "Tiger Tease," as we did in several events this season when he started strongly, but wobbled as the tournament progressed. Last week's performance began with a stellar four-under 66, but finished with a two-over 72.

Woods' explanation was similar, but more far-reaching than McIlroy's.

"Just everything," he said.

"I just didn't have it this weekend. I wasn't sharp. On (East Lake), you have to get the ball on the fairway. This Bermuda rough, you don't know what it's going to do, but even when I had it on the fairway, shots that I would normally hit inside 10, 15 feet were not there," he said.

As we now look forward to the Ryder Cup, Tiger's contribution, traditionally, has been singles play in which he is 4-1-1, but he's 13-14-2 in overall matches and has been on the winning side just once in six appearances.

McIlroy is one for one with Team Europe, but his personal record is 1-1-2, but it's too early to judge him on that record.

The timing of Brandt Snedeker's wins in the Tour Championship/FedEx Cup were timely, but the same can't be said for Woods and McIlroy fading just before heading to Medinah.

Big things are expected from the big guys and while it isn't out of the question that one or both will have an impact, history has proven that it's wise to peer through the limelight to check out the rest of the order.

The last time we looked, the Ryder Cup was a team event, a fact that often gets overlooked, just like many of the players in the shadows.

THE MEDINAH FACTOR

One advantage to being the host team is not only the 13th man with the presence of the partisan gallery, but also course set-up.

The word is that Medinah will have wide, slick fairways and not a lot of thick rough to favour the Americans and their big hitters such as Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson, even if U.S. captain Davis Love III insists it's for the excitement of the event.

Course set-up may help cure the malady that Woods and McIlroy had off the tee at East Lake, but it also won't hurt guys like Nicolas Colsaerts, Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood on the European side.

Given that so many Europeans are more than familiar with American courses, might course set-up be a factor that is way overplayed?

"I would say the U.S. has less of a home advantage than they did 10 years ago just because of the fact that we do choose to live and play most of our golf here," said Justin Rose, the runner-up at East Lake, who finished sixth in FedEx Cup playoff standings. "But the Ryder Cup atmosphere is second to none.

"The U.S. does have a lot of rowdy golf tournaments where the crowd can get on the limit, which is great to play in front of. I think the more we get used to playing over here, the less of an adjustment it is to play Ryder Cup over here."

The Europeans have six wins in the past eight Ryder Cups, but both of the American wins over the same time period have come at home, 1999 in Brookline, Mass., and 2008 in Louisville, Ky.

THE FATIGUE FACTOR

With players on both teams getting through the FedEx Cup playoffs, they may be feeling the effects of a long season, according to McIlroy. "It's been a long run. I think everyone's going to take the day off (Monday), the ones that have played (at East Lake), of course, and chill out and just get ready for the Ryder Cup because it's a long week. Not just with the golf and how much golf you have to play, but all the commitments you have outside of that," he said. ... In case you're wondering, Woods missed the 2008 Ryder Cup, won by the Americans in Kentucky, after knee surgery following the U.S. Open.


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