[PHOTO: Andrew Redington]
He wasn’t giving away any secrets as such. Still, for those in the market for insights into the Old World side’s demeanour heading into the upcoming Ryder Cup, there are few better places to go than a Rory McIlroy press conference. Speaking on the eve of the BMW PGA Championship, the DP World Tour’s flagship event, the world No.2 was close to his interesting and informative best during a 20-minute joust with the media.
Perhaps to the chagrin of the former European Tour, which makes its home at Wentworth, the questions posed to McIlroy were almost exclusively based on the biennial contest with the Americans set for later this month at the Marco Simone just outside Rome. And, as he nearly always does, the Northern Irishman delivered, covering a variety of sub-topics starting with the much-vaunted team spirit every European team claims to own. It will surely surprise only a few to hear the carefully nurtured relationships that have helped carry Europe to 11 victories since 1979—to the Americans’ nine—remain a priority this time round.
“It’s a transitional time for the European Ryder Cup team,” said McIlroy who, alongside his 11 teammates, was part of Monday’s scouting trip to the host course. “It’s exciting. And what has been refreshing is that I feel like the 12 of us are on the same level. There’s no type of hierarchy on the team. I remember the 2012 Ryder Cup, I went in there as No.1 player in the world and had won two majors in the previous two years. But I still didn’t feel like I could speak up in the team room. This doesn’t feel like that, which I think is really good.
“It’s just about making the new guys as comfortable as possible,” continued the four-time major champion. “To me, that has been a really cool thing about the past couple days. I don’t think any of these guys need their hand held in any way. I’d rather them look across to me than look up at me, if that makes sense. That’s the way I’d hope they see me. We are all part of a team and we are all trying to do our bit. No one is more important than anyone else.”
That theme of equality and camaraderie was later picked up by Jon Rahm.
“We have players that have more experience, but there’s no hierarchy,” insisted the Masters champion. “On that team, we’re all the same. It’s all for one and one for all. That’s kind of how it is. We are all there to accomplish the same goal. We are all part of the same team. What you’ve done before and what you might do after that week, doesn’t matter at all.”
And McIlroy wasn’t quite done. In fact, he was only getting started. Which surely speaks to the 34-year-old’s emotional attachment to the Ryder Cup. No one who watched his tearful reaction to Europe’s heavy defeat and his own relatively poor performance at Whistling Straits two years ago will forget the obvious strength of his disappointment.
“I told a story on Monday night to the team about watching Brookline in ’99 on TV and crying after America came back and Europe lost,” McIlroy said. “And obviously I cried in 2021. So not much has changed. I feel like I’m someone who should go out there and win points for the team; I didn’t do that. We’re not used to playing for other people in this game. So when you’re playing for your teammates, you want to do well for them. I felt like I didn’t do that. I felt like I didn’t give a good account of myself. That stung, and the score line stung. It was a difficult week for me.
“But that emotion was real and what I said at the end of that tournament was all true,” he continued. “It is by far the best experience in sport, and standing shoulder-to-shoulder with your teammates in an environment like that is I think the epitome of competition and sport.”
This article was originally published on golfdigest.com