Monday 27 May 2019

Team-player McIlroy will be inspirational on and off the course, insists Bjorn

Rory McIlroy: ‘He’s got great ideas’. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Rory McIlroy: ‘He’s got great ideas’. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Brian Keogh

Thomas Bjorn is backing Rory McIlroy to be an asset to Europe on and off the course in Paris this week.

Europe's Ryder Cup captain said at last month's PGA Championship that the Holywood star was "in a place where it's going to go boom and then he's going to start winning a lot of golf tournaments again."

But McIlroy has continued to misfire when it counts, failing to perform when contending in the final group in his last two starts to bring his tally of final-day disappointments this year to six.

Tiger Woods left him in his wake in Atlanta on Sunday, where the Co Down man ended up tied seventh, carding a 74 to finish six shots behind the 14-time Major winner having started the day only three behind.

Bjorn said: "Well, the good thing about Rory is as he's maybe not won the last few weeks or months, he's still there or thereabouts every time he plays, and that shows what quality he has and what he brings on the golf course.

"You go out there and watch him play, and it's just wonderful to watch. He's such a phenomenal ball-striker. He does so many great things on the golf course.

"You know, I always say, he's the one guy I'll pay money to watch play because he's always quality. The steps he's taken off the golf course are brilliant.

"He brings so much in that team room. He's great to have conversations with. He's got great ideas."

McIlroy said himself yesterday that he was more at home in the Ryder Cup team environment than the regular beat as a sole trader.

"I'm more comfortable in the team environment and in not thinking that if I mess up here it's going to have an effect on the rest of the team," he revealed.

"I've come to realise I can only do my job. I can't worry about what other people are doing. I'll be there for my team-mates for anything they need but when I'm playing I have to concentrate on my game, getting that point, and not worrying if I lose that the team will suffer."

Bjorn said the former World No 1 has been an inspirational figure for the young guns amongst the European 12.

"He understands everybody in the team room very well," Bjorn said. "He really gets under the skin on a lot of those youngsters and they take to him. You've got people that are great players and then you have people that have everything, and he's one of those.

"If you're a young player, you look at him in maybe a little bit of a different way - this is the guy I want to learn from and this is the guy I want to be, the way he plays golf.

"There's not a golfer in the world that wouldn't want to be like that.

"He's a lot of things. You all know what he's like and what good a guy he is, and he's just somebody you want to be like. You put those people like that into a team room, then they raise the mood of everybody else, and he's very good at that."

Bjorn will be praying that McIlroy finds his A-game, especially on Sunday when he's likely to be asked to lead from the front.

US skipper Jim Furyk also expects McIlroy to find his mojo, even if the tight golf course handcuffs the big hitters on both sides.

"Rory McIlroy is one of the best players in the world and he bombs it, but Rory is going to find a way to play well on any golf course because he's a good player," Furyk said. "That's what all these players are going to have to do."

Whether McIlroy can bomb it straight is another question and former Ryder Cup player Thomas Levet, now working for French television, is not impressed by what he's seen from the four-time Major winner this summer.

"Very average," Levet said. "Very average. His driving is not as good as before and his putting is very... it's not good."

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