This week at Hazeltine marks the fourth Ryder Cup appearance for Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, who has already contributed eight points for Team Europe.
His recent victory at the PGA Tour Championship was a statement to the Americans, who lost every Ryder Cup where McIlroy has taken part.
‘If anything, the struggle for me this year has been just trying to get myself in those positions to let my game sort of flourish and do what it needed to do,’ he said. ‘So I don’t really have that problem this week. You’re in that position from the first tee, so hopefully I can continue to play the way I’ve been playing and produce quality shots under pressure like you need to in a Ryder Cup.’
The four-time major winner and his curly locks have become an icon on Team Europe. He has gelled easily with senior players such as Lee Westwood and Justin Rose, teaming up well in foursome and four-ball matches.
‘As much as we talk about our blueprint in Europe, it’s not rocket science,’ said McIlroy. ‘Like we’re not thinking about it too much. All the guys get on pretty well together. Obviously you’ve got to match sort of 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.
The Ulsterman is a senior member on this year’s European team (which includes six rookies) and his wisdom will be crucial in days to come.
‘I relish that leadership role,’ said McIlroy. ‘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.’
The 28-year-old is comfortable competing on American soil, having already won the US Open and PGA Championship, along with 11 other PGA Tour titles.
This week in Minnesota there will be plenty of loud fans rooting for Team USA, but McIlroy could be the player to silence them.
‘I’ve never been on a losing Ryder Cup Team and I hope that that stays the same way on Sunday,’ he concluded.