Ten million dollar man Rory McIlroy says he is relishing the chance to be a leader on Europe's Ryder Cup team this week writes Simon Lewis.
Fresh from scooping the $10m (€8.9m) FedEx Cup by winning the Tour Championship in Atlanta for an $11.5m (€10.2m) payday last Sunday, world number three McIlroy began practice with his European team-mates at Hazeltine on Tuesday ahead of his fourth Ryder Cup against the United States.
The 27-year-old four-time major champion made his debut for Europe at Celtic Manor in 2010 and having only ever experienced victory he is determined to continue the winning streak. Leading by example will help that cause and he is eager to develop more as a team leader.
“I've definitely become more comfortable in that role,” McIlroy said on Tuesday. “I think in 2010, a rookie, but 2012, I came into the Ryder Cup number one-ranked player in the world. I had just won my second major championship, I won two of the four FedExCup events. I was playing really well, but I still didn't feel like it was my place to be a leader on the team. We had so many other players that had more experience in The Ryder Cup and were older than me, so I still didn't feel like I deserved that role in a way.
“But definitely at Gleneagles last time (in 2014), I embraced that more and I took more responsibility on, and that was really to do with (team captain) Paul McGinley. I was in constant contact with him and that's what he said he needed from me. I relished that opportunity. I relished the opportunity to rally our guys and be one of the leaders and speak up in the team room when I needed to; but definitely lead my example on the course. I felt like for the first time in a Ryder Cup, I did that last time and hopefully I can do that again.
“I relish that role. I understand it's a big responsibility, but I feel like I'm now ready to take that on my shoulders and hopefully lead by example.”
Also practising on a chilly and windy Tuesday at Hazeltine National, American captain Davis Love III sent his players out in three groups that gave an early hint of possible pairings for Friday's opening foursomes session.
Group one saw Jordan Spieth reprise his successful partnership of two years ago with Patrick Reed playing alongside US Open champion Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar. The second group saw two long hitters in JB Holmes and Brooks Koepka go out with captain's pick Ryan Moore and Brandt Snedeker while the third quartet onto the course comprised of Rickie Fowler and Zach Johnson, Phil Mickelson and PGA champion Jimmy Walker.
Meanwhile, Irish rugby legend Paul O'Connell and One Directioner Niall Horan were preparing for a celebrity match on the Ryder Cup course with American celebrities Huey Lewis and Bill Murray.
Former Munster, Ireland and British & Irish Lions captain O'Connell is understood to be on Tuesday night delivering a motivational talk to the European team at the invitation of captain Darren Clarke.