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rube@sympatico.ca

Oh, dear, a player has dared to diss the Ryder Cup. Watch now as Rory McIlroy is flayed for speaking from his 20-year-old heart.

But the young star from Northern Ireland was only being honest while speaking last Wednesday before the start of the Irish Open, when he referred to the Ryder Cup as "a great spectacle for golf, but an exhibition at the end of the day, and it should be there to be enjoyed."

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He added that it's "not that important of an event for me."

Not that important of an event? An exhibition?

Tell that to Corey Pavin, who will captain the U.S. team for the 2010 Ryder Cup at the Celtic Manor club near Cardiff, Wales. Pavin's Christmas card last December pictured his daughter, Alexis, wrapped up in an American flag. Pavin has said he bleeds Ryder Cup blood.

Then there's Europe captain Colin Montgomerie, who, like Pavin, is a Ryder Cup veteran.

Montgomerie and McIlroy played together during the first two rounds of the Irish Open. By all accounts, they didn't discuss McIlroy's comments, at least during their rounds.

But Montgomerie did make a few observations when asked about McIlroy's views.

"The Ryder Cup is not an exhibition," Montgomerie said, before adding that he wanted no one to "start a war against Rory McIlroy."

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"He's a very exciting young player and he's one of Europe's best young talents that we've had for many, many a year. Right? All I can say to you is, the Ryder Cup is not an exhibition, all right? Please don't say Monty and Rory are having a war here ... all I've said is the Ryder Cup is not an exhibition and it never will be."

Maybe McIlroy will feel the same way should he make the 2010 Ryder Cup team, which could easily happen. But he's hardly the first golfer to hold such heretical views. He's not the first not to genuflect reflexively when it comes to the Ryder Cup.

U.S. golfer Hunter Mahan said much the same as McIlroy during an interview in last August's Golf Magazine, before the 2008 Ryder Cup. He spoke about all the functions he'd heard players had to attend, for one.

"We went to prepare ourselves," Mahan said. "That's part of the whole thing. You're just a slave that week. At some point the players might say, 'You know what, we're not doing this any more, because this is ridiculous.' "

Mahan retracted his comments after the predictable firestorm. He made the U.S. team and, in his rookie appearance, led his side with 3½ points out of a possible five as the Americans won the event.

Mahan got into the spirit of the Ryder Cup, for sure. But really, isn't the event itself always, as David Duval once called it, "a little overcooked?"

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Well, it's more than a little overcooked. It's overheated. The jingoism is front and centre, but at the same time that's part of what makes the Ryder Cup powerful theatre.

Yet some prominent players continue to believe it's all too much. Most notably, Tiger Woods has never fully embraced the Ryder Cup. Nor, for that matter, can he be expected to embrace the Presidents Cup event between a U.S. team and an International team comprising players not eligible for the Ryder Cup.

Woods missed the first meeting that 2009 Presidents Cup captain Fred Couples called for potential U.S. team members last Wednesday during the Players Championship. Couples invited the top 30 players on the current points list for the competition - whoops, exhibition - that will occur in San Francisco in October.

Couples said he and Woods text-messaged one another after the meeting. Woods told Couples he was on his boat watching a movie with his baby on his lap.

"Okay, that's a good spot for you to be," Couples responded.

For Woods, golf is, above all, an individual game. He's trying to surpass Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 major championship wins. His Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup results are incidental.

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McIlroy, meanwhile, said "golf is an individual sport at the end of the day. And you have individual goals, and my individual goals are to win tournaments for myself. And if I do that, then I know that I'll have played good enough to get on to the team."

Golf is a "me-first" game. That's the nature of the sport.

The observation requires no retraction, and McIlroy shouldn't feel he has to provide one.

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