US hopes to keep McIlroy in his cage

13 August 2012 05:17

Tiger Woods qualified for the USA's Ryder Cup team Sunday but Rory McIlroy went one better than the 14-time major winner by blitzing the PGA Championship field to win by eight strokes.

Golf's two brightest stars will square off in the Ryder Cup next month but American team captain Davis Love said Monday there is more to the tournament than just the two marquee players.

"We don't see it as Rory versus Tiger, it is the US versus Europe," Love said at a news conference Monday at the Marriott Courtyard Hotel in downtown Charleston.

Love also named Scott Verplank and Jeff Sluman as his vice-captains for the US team that will play the Europeans at Chicago's historic Medinah course over the weekend of September 28-30.

McIlroy and Woods are the two respective top money winners for their teams but McIlroy has the edge on his rival this year with a major championship under his belt.

Love said McIlroy performed at the weekend as if someone had let the beast out of the cage.

"You can tell he's caged up and ready to bust loose," Love said of McIlroy, who won his second major by eight strokes and vaulted into the world number one ranking.

"He seems to have that ability that when it's a big tournament, he's right there just waiting to break loose. A lot like Tiger; the bigger the stage, the better he plays.

"They got a deep team and like Tiger he's become a leader for them. He is going to be a big part of their defence.

"But we got some guys on our team who are ready to take him on. You want to play the best."

Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar grabbed the seventh and eighth spots as the final round of the PGA Championship capped the points table for selecting the US team.

The year's fourth major championship was the final qualifying event for those wanting to earn one of eight automatic qualifications.

Mickelson, who finished in a tie for 36th at the PGA Championship, nailed down the No. 8 spot, while Woods led the standings and Bubba Watson finished second.

Also qualifying were Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Zach Johnson. Dufner, Bradley and Simpson will be making their Ryder Cup debuts.

Love will announce his four wildcard picks on September 4, with Hunter Mahan and Steve Stricker both in the running along with Jim Furyk and Rickie Fowler.

European captain Jose Maria Olazabal has more time on his hands with the European team's qualification process not being finalised until after the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles on August 26.

The Spaniard will unveil his two wildcard picks the following day.

Love wasn't giving anything away on Monday. He said there is more to selecting a team than just taking the 12 best players in America.

"I could just throw a dart and pick four really good golfers," he said. "But we need to pick a team. You have to look at the pairings. You have to look at the personalities."

He said if Stricker makes the team he might pair him with Woods.

"Tiger and Stricker have been a really good pairing. That's a great match. Jim Furyk is great because he can play with anybody."

Love also said they plan to set Medinah up so that it gives the USA the upper hand.

"It will be fun to figure out what is to our advantage," he said. "We want some real hard holes but also we want some excitement. We want some birdies.

"There are a lot of tee boxes and a lot of variety there."