Rory McIlroy has paid tribute to the role Alex Ferguson played in motivating him above all others on the European team at last September’s Ryder Cup.
As members of the victorious 2014 team were honoured on Tuesday night at the European Tour Players’ Awards for their 16½-11½ victory over the United States at Gleneagles last autumn, they were joined on stage by the former Manchester United manager, who had addressed them before the matches at the request of Europe’s captain.
McIlroy, speaking yesterday on the eve of his BMW PGA Championship title defence at Wentworth following a Pro-Am round with One Direction’s Niall Horan and Manchester United heroes Paul Scholes and Phil Neville, said such recognition for Ferguson was “very fitting”.
“I think I got more out of that talk on the Tuesday night than some of the other players did, because I guess I met Alex a few times and I knew him a little bit.
“But to be sitting there and sort of get a team talk off him and being such a huge Man United fan and a huge fan of his over the years, it was a really special way to start the week. It was nice that Alex came up on stage and got properly recognised. And as Paul (McGinley) said, he leaned on him quite a bit during that 12 to 18-month period. I’m sure that Paul learnt a lot from him.
“But I think at the same time, Alex was very impressed with what Paul had to say and what his ideas were. I think they worked very well together.”
Tuesday night’s gala event at a five-star Heathrow hotel, during which he received the Golfer of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year Awards, followed an appearance the previous evening for his sponsors at Niketown London, which in turn came less than 24 hours after McIlroy had won the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in North Carolina.
It was just another slice of life in the spotlight for the 26-year-old four-time major champion who took his trophy haul for the last 12 months to seven on Sunday and he can expect even more clamour on home soil next week at Royal County Down when his Rory Foundation hosts the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open. “It will be pretty similar to this week, apart from I won’t be coming straight from the States and I won’t have to battle a little bit of jet-lag,” McIlroy said.
“I won’t have anything like what I had on Monday with Nike. And last night, the dinner, The European Tour Awards Dinner, that went on pretty late, I didn’t get to bed till after midnight. I won’t have to deal with any of that next week. I’ll have to go to a few things; I have a few obligations, but it won’t be quite as bad as that.”
McIlroy said he was confident that next week’s Irish Open, when 80,000 fans are expected, needed no further promotional push from him.
“I think it sells itself. It’s one of the best golf courses in the world. It’s going to be one of the best fields assembled on The European Tour all year. The only thing we can’t guarantee is the weather, so fingers crossed that we get that. It’s going to be a great event, and one that I’m looking forward to, but right now my focus is here at Wentworth this week and trying to play the best that I can here.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved