Rory McIlroy has suggested the US could be trying too hard to win back the Ryder Cup this week, preferring Europe’s natural recipe for success to the Americans’ taskforce-driven search for the formula.
With the Ryder Cup teeing off on Friday at Hazeltine National, world number three McIlroy’s confidence is soaring following his second victory in three starts last Sunday, when his Tour Championship win also netted the Irishman a $10m (€8.9m) bonus as FedEx Cup winner.
Europe are hoping the feelgood factor can carry over into the Ryder Cup against a US team rated by captain Davis Love as possibly the best ever assembled, yet desperate to regain the trophy for the first time since 2008.
That desperation, following a heavy defeat in 2014 at Gleneagles, led to the PGA of America forming their 11-man taskforce to find a way to stop the rot.
McIlroy yesterday said the secret of Europe’s success was not difficult to work out. “Look, we both want it so badly but I think there comes a point where you maybe try a little too hard. As much as we talk about our blueprint in Europe, it’s not rocket science,” McIlroy said.
“Like, we’re not thinking about it too much. All the guys get on pretty well together. Obviously you’ve got to match game styles for the team format and you have to match personalities, as well. I think that’s the big thing, and we’ve been able to do that.
“I think, as well, the culture of the European Tour, we’ve got rookies on the team that play primarily in Europe. The culture of the European Tour is just a little bit different in terms of guys socialise a little bit more with each other. I know the American team have started to do that — obviously you see Rickie and Jordan and Phil and these guys playing; Brooks, DJ, they have all spent quite a lot of time together, obviously for this reason. And you’ve got Jack (Nicklaus) inviting them all over to his house for dinner and trying to sort of really bond the team together, which I think is a great thing for them.
“But we’ve never really needed to do that. That’s always just been a natural fit for us and a natural thing to do. So I think sometimes there can be a bit of a — you can over-team it a little bit and try too hard instead of it just happening naturally.
“I don’t think we’ve got any sort of psychological edge. We anticipate how hard this is going to be. But at the same time, you know, I’ve never been on a losing Ryder Cup team and I hope that that stays the same way on Sunday.”
Love’s reported assertion that his Americans are possibly the best Ryder Cup team ever assembled has clearly annoyed the opposition, while Johnny Miller has declared Darren Clarke’s line-up is Europe’s worst in years.
“I don’t think it’s hard for us to find motivation,” said McIlroy, “because anywhere you look, whether it be the sea of red you see on the golf course or the comments that are made in the media by the US team or by the captain, that gives us so much motivation already.
“Whenever we are going up against one of the greatest teams ever assembled, that’s motivation enough, just to say, how good a victory would this be if we go out and beat these guys on their home soil that. They are a very, very strong team but at the same time, we have so many strong players.
“And if you look at worldwide wins this year, Europe have 12; America have 10. So our team is good. Our team is more than ready to handle the occasion, to handle what we need to do.
“I think the big thing for us is we are playing away from home, and it’s just a matter of battling that 13th man and trying to keep the crowd as quiet as we possibly can.”
McIlroy, who practised in a group with Sergio Garcia and rookies Andy Sullivan and Chris Wood, is under no illusion as to the size of the challenge the Americans will pose in trying to stop a fourth successive European win.
“I think even though Europe have had so much success, it’s always been — maybe apart from the last time at Gleneagles, but the other two, we shouldn’t have won in 2012, like we shouldn’t have. It was a sort of steal and grab and go away. It was unbelievable how that worked out.
“And even in Celtic Manor in 2010, we only won one session, but it was that session where all 12 players were on the golf course and we won that session 5.5 to a half.
“So the Ryder Cup has probably been a lot tighter than people realise it is and I’m sure it’s going to be that way again this year.”
McIlroy has taken one vital step to ensure there will be no repeat of a blunder which could have cost Europe in 2012, when he he got a panicked phone call telling him he had 25 minutes to get to the first tee, after he had his watch set in the wrong time zone. Two minutes later and McIlroy would have forfeited the opening hole, five minutes late and he faced disqualification. Instead he arrived in time and went on to beat Bradley 2&1. This time McIlroy is sure there won’t be a repeat.
“I’ve already set my watch,” the 27-year-old said.
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