Exclusive Rory McIlroy Ryder Cup interviewSeptember, 2014
He's the undisputed World No.1 but can Rory inspire Europe to Ryder Cup victory or does he save his best for individual play? Dan Murphy caught up with the man of the moment ahead of Gleneagles
Rory McIlroy’s Ryder Cup record is certainly not a poor one. The Northern Irishman has won more games than he has lost.
But P9 W4 H2 L3 is hardly exceptional for a man who has four Majors to his name shortly after his 25th birthday.
McIlroy is at his best when playing with a smile on his face but there have been relatively few such moments in his two Ryder Cup appearances to date.
We have certainly not yet seen his unique brand of bouncy exuberance that characterises the game’s brightest talent when at his best.
Or at least that is the way it looks from the outside.
“My personal experience has been great,” insists McIlroy.
“I’ve really enjoyed it. I didn’t know how much I’d enjoy it. But it’s the best. For me, winning the Ryder Cup is probably the most fun you’re ever going to have at a golf tournament.
“You win a tournament on your own and it’s great and you get to celebrate with the people closest to you but to win as part of a team – you don’t really get to do that very often. Hopefully once every two years.
“It’s just great to celebrate with everyone when you’re all striving towards one goal.”
And then there is the great conundrum of the Ryder Cup, which is a team game played in pairs for two days and as an individual on Sunday.
“My view on it is you just have to go out and try and win your points in whatever game you’re playing in because that will ultimately help your team in the long run,” said McIlroy, who was 25 in May.
“It’s not like you treat it like an individual week but you still have to do the same things you do week in, week out to give yourself the best chance to play well to win a point for the team.”
Is there a danger, then, that McIlroy, like Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods before him, will never quite replicate his dominance in individual golf when playing in a team format?
“I have thoroughly enjoyed the two Ryder Cups I’ve been a part of,” he says.
“I feel like I’ve played pretty well in both but, as has been said, I probably could have done a little bit better.
"I’d probably still say that G Mac is the one I’m most comfortable playing with but I’ve no problem with playing with any of the other guys on the team" “I had a good match with Stewart Cink in the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor in the singles. I was able to beat Keegan Bradley in the singles last time – with a lot of practice beforehand…
“So I’m proud of my singles record to date and I’ll try to keep that going at least.”
So far, McIlroy has only had two partners at the Ryder Cup.
At Celtic Manor, he played with Graeme McDowell three times, winning one, halving one and losing one.
At Medinah there were three more outings with his countryman, resulting in a win and two narrow defeats.
Then came an unexpected alliance with Ian Poulter against Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson. Two down with six to play in the fourballs, McIlroy made two at the short 13th then handed over to Ian Poulter, who birdied each of the last five to win the game on the last.
What would have been 11-5 became 10-6 going into the singles and set up that unforgettable Sunday comeback.
“I feel like I’ve been through a few tough matches. With G Mac at both Celtic Manor and Medinah. And then just getting out of Ian Poulter’s way on that Saturday evening when he started holing all those putts.”
McIlroy insists that he was not surprised to be paired up with the Englishman.
“No, we talked about it. Just like I’ve already talked to Paul McGinley about pairings for this match.
“I get on really well with Ian. I think we make a good team and bounce off each other quite well. I’ll play with anyone.”
Who he will play with this time around is a matter of conjecture. You might think it unlikely that he would play with McDowell given the strain on their friendship since McIlroy left Horizon, the management company in which the former is a shareholder. McIlroy is due in court to give evidence next year.
“G Mac and I have played together a lot in the past and I think we know each other’s games well and what to say and not to say to each other when it’s not going so well.
“Out of everyone on the team, I’d probably still say that G Mac is the one I’m most comfortable playing with but I’ve no problem with playing with any of the other guys on the team.”
We will see. But what can be said with confidence is that the reigning Open champion has a leader he knows and trusts.
“I really like Paul as a captain. I’ve played under him in the Seve Trophy and he’s been part of the two Ryder Cup teams I’ve played on, as a vice captain.He’s very passionate, very inspirational.
“He’ll be great. I don’t think we have anything to worry about. He was a players’ choice. That’s important. The players wanted him to be captain. They felt strongly that they wanted him to lead the team.
“I let my opinion be heard and I just wanted the best guy for this Ryder Cup and I felt that was Paul.”
So can McGinley be the man who helps McIlroy deliver the kind of return that Europe now expects from their talisman?
We are about to find out.
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