Ryder Cup: McIlroy sets target of closing the gap for Europe

Europe's Martin Kaymer (left) celebrates winning his singles match on day three of the 40th Ryder Cup at Gleneagles Golf Course
Europe's Martin Kaymer (left) celebrates winning his singles match on day three of the 40th Ryder Cup at Gleneagles Golf Course
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World No 1 Rory McIlroy insists the desire to redress the balance in Ryder Cup history means the event will not be diminished by Europe’s recent dominance over the United States.

The 16½ to 11½ victory at Gleneagles was their eighth in 10 attempts, but with the overall record in America’s favour the Northern Irishman knows there is still a long way to go.

Europe still trail 25-12 in terms of victories and captain Paul McGinley used a graphic depicting the divide as a motivational tool this week.

“We have an image in our team room and it shows how much red, white and blue is still on it,” said the 25-year-old.

“If you look at the honours board of the Ryder Cup, America have still won a lot more than Europe and that’s what we’re going towards.

“Okay, we have won eight of the last 10 or seven of the last eight or whatever it is, but we are still very much behind the US in terms of Ryder Cups won.

“That is our goal and our main objective to catch them up and overtake them as quickly as we can.

“I don’t think this (their recent record) diminishes the competitive aspect of the Ryder Cup at all.

“Even though we’ve won the majority of the last 10, a lot of them have been very competitive. The last two Ryder Cups previous to this one, Europe only won two of the sessions.

“At Celtic Manor we had to combine two sessions and have all players out on the course and we won that session five and a half to a half, and then everyone saw what we did in the singles at Medinah. Those were very tight matches.

“I have no doubt that come Hazeltine in a couple of years’ time it will be a tight match again.

“The Ryder Cup will go on long past the years we are living. It’s a great spectacle of sport between two very competitive teams: Europe have just been getting the better of the US the last few years, but that’s not to mean that the US won’t bounce back and win a few over the next five or six.”

In terms of personal satisfaction, McIlroy said the Ryder Cup victory provided the icing on the cake after adding two majors to his growing collection earlier in the year.

Coincidentally the last man to achieve such a feat was Tom Watson, the defeated United States captain, in 1977.

McIlroy said: “It’s obviously a nice honour to have. It’s the icing on the cake of what has been a very special summer for me, to win back-to-back majors, the Open Championship and then the PGA, and then to be a part of this fantastic team led by a wonderful captain.

“I couldn’t have asked for the summer to end any better. I didn’t know that it had not been done since 1977 but, you know, if it’s not me in a couple years’ time again, I hope it’s one of these guys (his team-mates) that gets two majors and gets a Ryder Cup.”

McIlroy revealed he approached his singles match against good friend Rickie Fowler with more focus than the final rounds of the Open and US PGA, which he won this year, and that resulted in a comfortable 5&4 victory which helped Europe to an overall win.

“I personally am just really proud of how I played,” said the Northern Irishman.

“I was probably up for this match more than I was the final two rounds of the majors I won this year.”

Wales’ Jamie Donaldson reflected on his “remarkable journey” after securing the winning point on his Ryder Cup debut at Gleneagles.

The 38-year-old, who only secured his place on the team with victory in the penultimate qualifying event, was playing on the second-tier Challenge Tour in 2007 and did not win his first European Tour title until 2012 in a career often blighted by back problems.

“It’s been a remarkable journey for me, I suppose, over the last couple of years,” said Donaldson, who beat Keegan Bradley 4&3 and also won two foursomes matches alongside Lee Westwood.

“I spoke to Paul (McGinley, European captain) before the team was selected.

“I had just had two weeks in America playing the Bridgestone and US PGA and hopefully securing my place there, and I didn’t. I spoke to Paul on the phone and he said, ‘Listen, you’re going to have to go to the Czech Masters and you’re going to have to go to Italy or just one of the two to make enough money to qualify for the team, because the picks usually go to experienced players’.

“I went to the Czech Masters and played really well and did enough there to secure my place on the team.”

With 13 and a half points already on the board, Donaldson initially made sure Europe would retain the trophy as holders by guaranteeing half a point against Bradley by holding a four-hole lead with four to play.

But he then sealed outright victory in style, hitting his approach to the 15th to within inches of the hole and prompting the captains to shake hands before he had reached the green.

“I hit a really good tee shot down 15 and I had 140 yards to the hole which is a perfect wedge for me,” added Donaldson. “Sometimes you can hit a really good tee shot and not have a good yardage and you’ve got to make something up. But it was a perfect number for a wedge with it being downwind. So all I had to do was get it on line and it was going to be the right club. For it to finish a foot from the hole, it’s obviously quite a bonus.

“In the air, you’re just hoping it’s going to be good and it turned out spot on. So, yeah, it was quite a way to finish.”

Westwood was overcome with emotion on Saturday after moving alongside Arnold Palmer in the all-time scoring list on 23 points with only Nick Faldo (25), Bernhard Langer (24), Billy Casper (23½) and Colin Montgomerie (23½) ahead of him.

“To move above Seve is something I guess you just don’t ever imagine doing,” said a tearful Westwood.