Rory McIlroy has revealed how he ‘gate-crashed’ a meeting hosted by USA Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker that included possible and probable Whistling Straits team members.
McIlroy spoke of casually walking into the meeting at a restaurant close to the official hotel for this week’s Tour Championship in Atlanta.
He said laughing: “I called in. I was eating in the same vicinity, so I called in and said hello.
On a more serious note, and with the Ryder Cup now less than three weeks away, McIlroy will be hoping Padraig Harrington’s ‘distanced’ approach will bring the European Team together for a successful defence in Wisconsin.
McIlroy will be making sixth appearance in European colours under a sixth different captain.
He made his Ryder Cup debut as a then 21-year-old under Colin Montgomerie’s leadership at Celtic Manor and he’s since played under Jose-Maria Olazabal (2012), Paul McGinley (2014), Darren Clarke (2016) and Thomas Bjorn in Versailles (2018).
McIlroy admits all five past European Team leaders have had much the same captaincy style and with Harrington the big exception.
He said: “Padraig is a little more of a distanced captain compared to other captains I have played under.
“Thomas (Bjorn) basically took a year-and-a-half out from his career to really focus on the captaincy and so did McGinley. Clarkie a little bit too.
“The thing is, Padraig is still pretty competitive. He’s got a PGA Tour card and he’s playing regularly over here in the States. So, I think he, more than the last few captains, has had to try to balance that I’m going to be a Ryder Cup captain, but I’m still trying to play at a high level and focus on my game a little bit.
“But then over the last couple of months I’ve definitely felt more of a switch where he’s definitely more in Ryder Cup mode than he is playing mode”.
Harrington’s contested 20 events on both sides of ‘The Pond’ this year and will be in the field for this week’s BMW PGA Championship, the final European team qualifying event ahead of the September 24th start to competition at Whistling Straits along the shores of Lake Michigan.
McIlroy, who is assured of selection, is taking the week off and has been around enough Ryder Cup’s to know the role of the captain.
He said: “The captain doesn’t hit any shots and that’s what I always say. I mean, I played under some pretty average captains, I played under some really good captains and we have won both times.
“Like I’m not trying to play down the role of the captain, but I don’t think it’s as important as everyone thinks it is. The players are the ones on the golf course hitting the shots and holing the putts.
“Looking at the European team, there’s quite a bit of continuity on our team, so I think you’re going to have pairings that aren’t really a surprise to most people.
“There’s going to be a couple of rookies on the team that are going to have to see who they pair well with and that will be up to maybe different personalities, maybe looking into the stats to see whose game matches up with who, but we have got some tried and tested formulas that have worked in the past and I don’t think there’s any reason to deviate from them too much.”
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