HAVEN, WISCONSIN | Rory McIlroy wept.
The four-time major winner from Northern Ireland broke into tears in his television interviews Sunday and acknowledged “a tough week” after securing his only point for Europe in singles during a resounding Ryder Cup loss to the Americans at Whistling Straits.
“I love being a part of this team, I love my teammates so much, and I should have done more for them this week,” said McIlroy after his 3-and-2 win against Xander Schauffele in the day’s opening singles match left him 1-3 for the week. “I’m glad I put a point on the board for Europe today, but I just ... I can’t wait to get another shot at this.”
His voice cracking with emotion, McIlroy pinched his nose to try to stop the tears and regain his composure.
“It is by far the best experience in golf, and I hope little boys and girls watching this today aspire to play in this event or the Solheim Cup, because there’s nothing better than being a part of a team,” he said. “Especially the bond we have in Europe. No matter what happens after this, I’m proud of every single one of our players, our captain, our vice captains. I just wish I could have done a little more for the team. It’s been a tough week.”
Despite not making a birdie on his own ball in two four-ball matches and suffering Europe’s three most lopsided losses in partner play, McIlroy assumed his preferred position as the lead dog in Sunday singles. Captain Pádraig Harrington had no reservations sending McIlroy out first on Sunday despite his 0-3 mark that dropped his career Ryder Cup record below .500 to 11-12-4.
“He's been a leader on the team. Let him lead,” said Harrington, who sat McIlroy on Saturday morning for a session for the first time in his Ryder Cup career that had extended 26 consecutive sessions.
It didn’t inspire the greatest rally in Ryder Cup history, but his victory against Schauffele was a tourniquet on McIlroy’s wounded reputation during a difficult week for Europe at Whistling Straits.
McIlroy stepped up and made birdies on the first two holes, taking a quick 1-up lead on the first when Schauffele didn’t hit the hole on a 3-footer. By the 11th hole, McIlroy had a 3-up lead.
With a chance to close it out on 15 with a 5-footer, McIlroy missed and sent his match to the 16th tee for the first time all week. He finished the job with his fifth birdie of the day to halve the hole and win the match to get his career Ryder Cup record back to level (12-12-4).
It was McIlroy’s first singles win since beating Rickie Fowler in 2014 at Gleneagles.
“I don’t think there’s any greater privilege to be a part of one of these teams, European or American. ... I’ve gotten to do this six times. They have always been my greatest experiences of my career.”
McIlroy had not been himself all week. The leader in birdie average on the PGA Tour failed to make any in his two four-ball sessions with Shane Lowry on Friday and Ian Poulter on Sunday – both resulting in 4-and-3 losses. His failure to generate a single point put Harrington’s team behind the eight ball. Not getting a couple of points from its second-best player makes the difference between an 11-5 deficit that proved insurmountable to a typical 9-7 mark that is anybody’s ballgame with 12 singles matches on tap.
“I have not … never really cried or got emotional over what I’ve done as an individual. I couldn't give a sh--,” McIlroy said on American TV. “But this team, and what … and what it feels like to be a part of, to see Sergio (García) break records, to see Jon Rahm come into his own this week, to see one of my best friends, Shane Lowry, make his Ryder Cup debut.
“All that, it’s phenomenal and I’m so happy to be a part of it. As I said I’m disappointed that I didn’t contribute more this week.”
McIlroy then apologized for swearing on live television.
Earlier in his career, McIlroy had been dismissive of the Ryder Cup as just an exhibition, but after his sixth appearance his emotion revealed a devoted believer in the biennial matches.
“The more and more I play in this event, I realize that it’s the best event in golf, bar none,” he said. “I love being a part of it. I can't wait to be a part of many more. Yeah, it’s the best.
“I don’t think there’s any greater privilege to be a part of one of these teams, European or American. It’s an absolute privilege. I’ve gotten to do this six times. They have always been my greatest experiences of my career.”