In a mostly forgettable week for Europe in the Ryder Cup, it might become the most memorable moment. After Rory McIlroy polished off his dominating 3&2 victory over Xander Schauffele in the opening singles match on Sunday – earning his only point at Whistling Straits – the four-time Major champ went before the television cameras and was as emotional as we have ever seen him.
Talking to Sky Sports first, the Ulsterman twice broke down crying and had to briefly step away before gaining his composure. He then moved over to talk to NBC, where he was still teary-eyed, with his voice cracking.
“I love being a part of this team,” McIlroy said unsteadily. “I should have done more for them this week.”
During his American interview, McIlroy let loose with an expletive that he later apologised for.
“I have never really cried or got emotional over what I’ve done as an individual,” he said. “I couldn’t give a s–t. But this team, and what it feels like to be a part of, to see Sergio [Garcia] break records, to see Jon Rahm come into his own this week, to see one of my best friends, Shane Lowry, make his Ryder Cup debut… All that, it’s phenomenal and I’m so happy to be a part of it.”
McIlroy scored the fewest points in any of his six Ryder Cup appearances in only the second team loss he’s suffered in the biennial exhibition. On Friday, he lost with Ian Poulter in foursomes, 5&3, to Ryder Cup rookies Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay. He and fellow Irishman Shane Lowry then suffered another lopsided defeat, falling 4&3 to Harris English and Tony Finau.
Europe captain Padraig Harrington then benched McIlroy for the Saturday morning foursomes – the first time Rory was left out for any session in his career – and he came back flat again in the afternoon, again losing badly with Poulter against Dustin Johnson and Collin Morikawa, 4&3.
How bad was McIlroy in playing his own ball the first two days? For a former world No.1, truly awful. Including concessions, he was credited with one eagle and no birdies over 30 holes. Europe seemingly would have hoped for at least two points in team play for McIlroy.
With the USA taking a commanding 11-5 lead after two days, McIlroy’s Sunday was far too little too late. He got out to an early lead when Schauffele missed a short putt on the first green, got a 2-up lead through four holes and cruised by making five total birdies.
In gauging McIlroy’s emotions, he clearly was disappointed for himself and Europe while also cherishing the experience.
“I’m glad I put a point on the board for Europe,” McIlroy said. “I can’t wait to get another shot at this.
“This is my far the best experience, and I hope that little boys and girls watching this today, they aspire to play in ths and the Solheim Cup. There’s nothing better than being a part of a team. Especially the bond we have in Europe. No matter what happens this week, I’m proud of our captain, our vice-captains and our team.”
PHOTO: Patrick Smith