Darren Clarke has hailed Rory McIlroy as a “hugely inspirational figure” for Europe’s Ryder Cup team and said he feels lucky to have the four-time major champion in his side.
McIlroy will feature in his fourth Ryder Cup at Hazeltine this week, having been buoyed by an upturn in form that culminated in FedEx Cup glory on Sunday.
Having triumphed at the Deutsche Bank Championship earlier in September, the 27-year-old outlasted Ryan Moore in a play-off to win the Tour Championship and pip Dustin Johnson to the $10million FedEx Cup bonus prize.
“To have him go out and do that and to shoot what he did on the back nine, trying to win the FedEx Cup – that was very impressive,” said Clarke in his first news conference of the week at Hazeltine.
“Rory’s a wonderful young man and an unbelievable golfer, so he’s a hugely inspirational figure for our team and I feel very lucky that he’s on our European side.”
“To see Rory showing that fighting spirit and battling the way he did was wonderful.
“Certainly from a European perspective it’s always good to have one of our members win the week before the Ryder Cup – that was obviously a very enjoyable thing for all of us to watch.
“With the guys that were travelling [from Europe to the USA] on the plane, we were all there with all our caddies, in the bar in the hotel watching it on the big screen, and obviously everyone was delighted and excited.”
Moore’s impressive performance in the Tour Championship resulted in him being named as the 12th and final member of the USA team.
Yet while the Ryder Cup hosts waited until the last minute to finalise their line-up, Clarke announced all of his wildcard picks a month ahead of the event.
“We just keep doing it the way we’ve been doing it in Europe so we’ve been very fortunate that it’s been a formula that seems to be very successful,” added Clarke, in reference to Europe triumphing in six of the last seven contests.
“We finalised our team quite some time ago, so I didn’t have everything that was going on, obviously with Davis [Love III, the US captain], with who was making a putt and who wasn’t making a putt and prospective team members.
“We have been very settled now this past while and I’ve spoken to all the guys at length. They all know what sort of role they’re going to have within the team and we are all here with the same goal.”