Tears led to fears. As Rory McIlroy bluffed during an interview at the end of the last Ryder Cup, speculation increased that one of the greatest golfers of all time was in free fall. No one among the European colors impressed in a brutal 19-9 defeat to the USA, but the scale of Mcilroy’s anger up to a final victory against Xander Schauffele was especially striking.
As is so often the matter with McIlroy, the received wisdom turned out to be wrong. He won on his next tournament outing. In the meantime, another quintet of tracks has been added. The inability to claim a big fifth is eating away at the Northern Irishman, but his degree of consistency after Wisconsin mocked the tales of doom.
Sunday at Whistling Straits was important. Just like Saturday night. Pádraig Harrington, in combination with the rest of the European team, insisted that McIlroy play the opening match of the last session.
“It was a big vote of confidence because I was pretty low this Saturday,” McIlroy says.
“I had sat down in the morning and lost the afternoon. It was the lowest I had felt at a Ryder Cup. I would have preferred to be hidden somewhere in the middle of the command, but that gave me a purpose. It gave me something to really, really get up to. It refocused me and put me in a different mindset.
“There was a lot going on. The team stood up and wanted me to come out first to lead them, after the week I had meant a lot to myself. That was one of the reasons I got emotional, I felt like the whole team was supporting me. I felt empowered and had a responsibility to go there and earn a point.
“It didn’t count for the Ryder Cup in the end, but it all meant a lot to me.
“It was a pretty important moment in my Ryder Cup career, but think about the fights I had before and what I did after. The whole race from the end of 2021, the whole year 2022, also this year … it all started on this last day in Whistling Straits.”
Luke Donald could inherit McIlroy in useful form from Marco Simone in Rome; with a point to prove for the Ryder Cup. He has had extremely positive experiences in this field. “I would love it,” he admits.