Rory McIlroy sheds tears after difficult Ryder Cup week

Teary-eyed Northern Irishman laments his performance as he praises his team-mates

 Shane Lowry consoles Rory McIlroy  on the 16th green after losing to Patrick Cantlay in the  Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images

Shane Lowry consoles Rory McIlroy on the 16th green after losing to Patrick Cantlay in the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images

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For a man so used to getting into the zone, of blocking out all distractions, Rory McIlroy let it all flow out. Tears. Real salty tears. Choking up, snivelling and out of control.

You’d hardly have known he’d just won his own singles, outdueling Xander Schauffele; but he knew the bigger picture had him cast as part of a heavily losing team and it triggered an emotion that he’d been at the root of it.

McIlroy had been the loneliest man in Europe’s team room for days on end. Identified as a leader, he hadn’t been able to do right from wrong through foursomes and fourballs and it was only the freedom of looking after himself that enabled him to finally break free and showcase his brilliance. Too late, and he knew it more than anyone.

When he was done, as the roars of the American crowds, who had heckled him from his appearance on the first tee with a chorus of boos and were unrelenting as he worked his way around the sand hills to ultimately shake hands on the 16th green with a 2 and 1 win over Schauffele to end a run of three losses.

Rory McIlroy plays his shot from the second tee during Sunday’s singles matches. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy plays his shot from the second tee during Sunday’s singles matches. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images

He’d won. But Europe had lost, heavily. And McIlroy’s emotions got the better of him. Totally and utterly.

“I love being a part of this team. I love my team-mates so much, and I should have done more for them this week. I’m glad I put a point on the board for Europe but I just can’t wait to get another shot at this,” said McIlroy, struggling to keep the tears in check.

‘Absolute privilege’

In pinching his nose to compose himself, McIlroy added: “I don’t think there’s any greater privilege to be a part of one of these teams. It’s an absolute privilege. I’ve gotten to do this six times. They have always been my greatest experiences of my career. I have never really cried or got emotional over what I’ve done as an individual. I couldn’t give a s**t. But this team, what it feels to be a part of it, to see Sergio 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, [means so much].”

McIlroy turned the mirror on himself. “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,” he said.

In five previous Ryder Cups, McIlroy had played every session of every match. But his form this time around deserted him when it mattered on Friday and Saturday (where he was rested from the morning foursomes). Up to teeing up against Schauffele, his record was a misery. Three matches, three losses.

On those opening two days, as the USA dominance grew ever stronger, McIlroy had failed to make any impact whatsoever and the leadership qualities so desired of him were missing out on the course.

The singles win brought perhaps some small degree of redemption but the emotional outpouring in its aftermath, and his explanation, with it an apology for using bad language, showed just how much the Ryder Cup and being a part of a team truly meant. Those days of yesteryear when he compared the match to being an exhibition have been buried. There have been tears of joy after wins – in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2018 – but these tears of sorrow revealed far more about McIlroy.

‘Let him lead’

“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. I wish I could have done more,” said McIlroy.

Prior to the match, Pádraig Harrington had explained his reasoning for sending out McIlroy in the top match. “He’s been great for the team. He’s been a leader on the team. Let him lead.”

If anything, McIlroy’s words – in sorrow – afterwards showed how much he wants to be a leader going into the future.

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