It was 2009 and Rory McIlroy had just turned 20 years old. He had yet to play on a Ryder Cup team, and he only had one victory as a professional, the win coming earlier that year in February at the DP World Tour’s Dubai Desert Classic. As a young rising star, he received the typical questions a young rising star receives—think Ludvig Aberg—during a Ryder Cup year. Would you like to be on the team? How much is it weighing on your mind? Etc. Etc.
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That’s when McIlroy, who remains honest to a fault to this day, committed the grave sin of playing the meaning of the event down, even referring to it as … GULP … an exhibition.
“It’s not a huge goal of mine,” said McIlroy at the 2009 Irish Open, 17 months before he’d qualify for the European team on points for the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor. “It’s an exhibition at the end of the day. In the big scheme of things it’s not that important of an event for me.”
McIlroy was also later quoted as saying “obviously, I’ll try my best for the team but I’m not going to be running around fist-pumping.”
The comments sparked instant controversy, with European veterans like Colin Montgomerie weighing in and saying “it’s not an exhibition and never will be. It’s a very unique, special event and much more nerve-wracking than a major. When you play in it you want to be there again and again.”
Obviously, McIlroy has since seen the light, playing on every European team since 2010 and winning in four of the six Ryder Cups he’s played in. It now means so much to him that, after Europe’s loss in 2021, McIlroy got emotional during an interview with Sky Sports.
Unfortunately, a bad quote can still follow you around like a plague, but McIlroy being the good sport he is, he faced the music in a video tweeted out by the European Ryder Cup team. It begins with McIlroy reading off his old “exhibition” and “not that important” quotes, to which he jokingly replies “Who said that?”
There is truly nothing like it.pic.twitter.com/oU9LqMkgjF
— Kyle Porter (@KylePorterCBS) September 25, 2023
“I said that in my naivety as a young, swashbuckling lad,” McIlroy admits. “I now have been part of the Ryder Cup a lot, and what those three quotes are couldn’t be further from the truth.”
Yup, we’d say McIlroy has backed that up over the last decade-plus. If you were feeling the same way as young McIlroy for this year’s event, watching that video to begin your Ryder Cup week should change your mind in an instant. Sadly, it’s only Monday and this thing doesn’t get started until Friday. Based off videos like this, though, it will be well worth the wait.
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This article was originally published on golfdigest.com