In-form McIlroy hopes Tour Championship triumph can spur on Europe in Ryder Cup
Published 26/09/2016 | 18:31
Europe's top golfer Rory McIlroy hopes he can bring some momentum to the team's bid to win an unprecedented fourth successive Ryder Cup after his Tour Championship victory.
The world number three triumphed in a three-man play-off - which included the United States' last wildcard pick Ryan Moore - at East Lake in Atlanta to win the PGA Tour's season-ending event.
He also pipped the in-form Dustin Johnson, expected to be one of America's big guns at Hazeltine Golf Club later this week, to the £8.8million FedEx Cup prize.
He has now won twice in three weeks on the PGA Tour to come into form at just the right time to aid the European cause.
"I've had a lot of text messages go through but Paul McGinley, the previous captain, texted me and said 'This is sort of the first of hopefully a lot of momentum for Europe during the next few days'," said the 27-year-old.
"Hopefully, in some way, it helps the team. It helps the team sort of galvanize and we can all get off on the right foot.
"I'm just looking forward to meeting up with the guys. I think they'll get into the hotel around 4pm (local time) and I'll already be up there.
"I'll be probably nursing a bit of a sore head. I'm looking forward to the day off (on Monday) but am really excited to catch up with the guys and get into that team mode and the team spirit and turn my attention to something else.
"I think when I get myself in situations like this, over the last couple of years any way, I seem to produce my best golf when I need it.
"I've obviously never gone into a Ryder Cup with this much excitement coming off the back of something like this."
The last month has seen a turnaround in fortunes for McIlroy, who was visibly getting frustrated because of ongoing struggles with his putting.
However, missing the cut at the US PGA Championship in late July proved to be something of a watershed in his season as it provided the wake-up call he needed.
"I think you need weeks like that. I've always benefited from things like that in my career," he added.
"I always feel like from a low point you can work yourself back up, and you can really assess what you need to do.
"I think it was blatantly obvious what I needed to do after Baltusrol, in terms of trying to fix my putting or to at least address some issues in it.
"I started on a process to do that and I didn't think results were going to come as quickly as they have done really.
"I've played really, really well but I've putted well also. I've converted more of my chances I'm giving myself.
"The margins are so small in this game so it was nice to just set the reset button after the PGA.
"You have goals, you have ambition, you have drive to work hard for something else and I really wanted to work hard to try to at least give myself a chance in these (FedEx Cup) play-offs and then obviously looking forward to Ryder Cup.
"I want to be in the best possible shape to try and help the team there as well."
The European team are due to assemble at Hazeltine on Monday afternoon with more than half the team making the trans-Atlantic crossing.
Captain Darren Clarke, in possession of the Ryder Cup, left Heathrow Airport along with Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood and rookies Rafa Cabrera Bello, Thomas Pieters, Andy Sullivan, Danny Willett and Chris Wood, accompanied by four of his five vice-captains, Thomas Bjorn, Padraig Harrington, Paul Lawrie and Sam Torrance.
They will meet McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and Matt Fitzpatrick, plus remaining vice-captain Ian Poulter, who are already in America.
"It still feels as good as ever. It's always great to be involved in the Ryder Cup," Westwood, embarking on his 10th consecutive appearance in the contest requiring just two points to equal Sir Nick Faldo's record haul of 25 points, told rydercup.com.
"We are all going over there to be a unit, stand shoulder to shoulder, as Darren keeps saying, and win the Ryder Cup."
Willett won his first major at the Masters in April but admits this is a different sort of excitement.
"It's been a great year so far and this is right up there," he said.
"This is what you dream of. Getting ready in the morning, putting on the Ryder Cup outfit and joining the other guys.
"It's what we all play for and work for. It's very special."