GUIDONIA MONTECELIO, Italy –
Rory McIlroy was still running hot after his parking-lot outburst at the Ryder Cup on Saturday night as he made his way to Marco Simone the following morning to help Europe regain the golden trophy.
He’d already addressed the issue with European captain Luke Donald. He’d already spoken to his wife, too. But McIlroy also decided to take inspiration from the writings of a Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius, to get in the right frame of mind.
When in Rome, and all that.
Well, the message got through.
McIlroy delivered more than he ever has for Team Europe, his 3-and-1 singles win over Sam Burns taking him to a competition-high four points — the most he has ever compiled at a single Ryder Cup — and providing the momentum that pushed his teammates over the line for a 16 1/2-11 1/2 victory on Sunday.
He finished the previous Ryder Cup in tears at Whistling Straits, frustrated that he’d let the European team down by only claiming one point in its record loss to the Americans.
Two years later, McIlroy was pouring Champagne over teammate Shane Lowry’s head and leading the soccer-style celebrations on the podium as Europe’s players took turns to hoist the 17-inch gold trophy high.
“This wasn’t about revenge, this was about redemption,” McIlroy said.
“I’ve luckily been a part of a few winning Ryder Cup teams and it feels amazing. But at the same time, being part of a losing Ryder Cup team sucks, it really does.”
McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Viktor Hovland — the guys ranked Nos. 2-4 in the world — lived up to their billing as Europe’s key players in Rome, collecting a combined 10 1/2 points.
But this felt like McIlroy’s Ryder Cup. It was his seventh appearance for Europe, making him the most experienced player on the team, and he was desperate to produce a legacy-defining performance after what transpired in Whistling Straits and because, in his words, he has “reached the back nine of my Ryder Cup career.”
Well, he formed a new European dream team with Tommy Fleetwood — they are calling it “Fleetwood Mac” — to claim back-to-back foursomes wins and combined with Matt Fitzpatrick in fourballs for one of the biggest victories of the week, 5 and 3 over Collin Morikawa and Xander Schauffele on Friday afternoon.
If it wasn’t for Patrick Cantlay’s heroics on the final three holes in the fading light late Saturday, McIlroy would have become only the second Team Europe player — after Francesco Molinari in 2018 — to go 5-0 in one edition of the Ryder Cup.
Maybe that was partly the reason why he lost his temper so bad on the 18th green and later outside the clubhouse as he fired off angry words in the direction of Cantlay’s caddie, Joe LaCava, who McIlroy perceived to have acted disrespectfully by waving his hat in his line of sight ahead of a potentially match-tying putt.
“Walking off the 18th green yesterday, I was probably the angriest I have ever been in my career,” McIlroy said. “I said to the U.S. guys I thought it was disgraceful what went on. I made that clear. I needed to calm myself down because I could have let it bring me down the wrong path.
“I think I let it fuel the fire today,” he added, “and it focused me and I was able to go out there and get my point.”
McIlroy is 34 and says he is intent on making the most of every Ryder Cup he plays in from now on.
“To see guys like Ludvig (Aberg) come in here and be an absolute stud and take everything in stride, I wish I was in his position again,” McIlroy said, “looking forward to playing in 15 or 20 Ryder Cups or whatever it is he’s going to play in.”
It seems fairly certain, though, that McIlroy will still be around in two years’ time when Europe defends the trophy in Bethpage Black in New York.
McIlroy said he and the rest of the European team would be very happy to have Donald as captain once again.
His parting shot — and he’s had a few of them this weekend — was a warning to the Americans.
“I think one of the biggest accomplishments in golf right now is winning an away Ryder Cup,” he said. “And that’s what we’re going to do at Bethpage.”