Sports Review 2023: Magnificent McIlroy an outstanding leader for Europe

Both on and off the course the Northern Irishman proved inspirational for his team in a memorable Ryder Cup triumph in Rome

The Ryder Cup, September 29th-October 1st

The horseshoe-shaped grandstand around the first tee at Marco Simone outside Rome more than hinted of old history. It took the form of the Coliseum, almost urging those teeing off in battle at the 44th Ryder Cup to assume the role of gladiators.

On a lighter note, some among the large galleries donned costumes – of Nasa astronauts (don’t ask!) and a number even kitted as Superman – and, yet, the three days of competition provided the occasion for Rory McIlroy to truly take on the mantle as Europe’s on-course and locker room inspiration as the Northern Irishman played all five matches and emerged with a valuable four points personal haul in a role as leader.

This was McIlroy’s seventh career appearance in a Ryder Cup but it was by far his best and even came with its share of controversy when US player Patrick Cantlay’s caddie Joe LaCava – in the fading light of Saturday’s afternoon fourballs – waved his cap at him and walked repeatedly in his eyeline as he prepared to putt on the 18th green.

Subsequently, McIlroy vented his fury at those antics in the resort’s car park with another American caddie Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay the unfortunate one at the end of his ire. It took Shane Lowry, acting as a personal bodyguard it seemed, bundling McIlroy into a car to take the heat out of the flare-up.

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That 18th green discourtesy, though, provided some fire for McIlroy’s belly come the Sunday’s defining singles where he led Europe’s quest to regain the trophy with a comprehensive 3 and 1 win over Sam Burns as Luke Donald’s team ultimately secured an overall 16½ to 11½ winning margin over the USA.

McIlroy had embraced the gladiatorial images of the first tee and provided his own stamp of authority, a golfing emperor if you will.

And lest you think that it’s all about swinging clubs at a little white ball, McIlroy revealed a deeper side to his inner mind in the aftermath of victory and of how he’d done a little reading en route to the course for the final day’s showdown:

“I’ve read Marcus Aurelius’s meditations. I’ve studied Stoicism for a while and read a lot of those sort of books. I just thought as a former emperor of Rome and seeing that we are in Rome, I thought it would be a good time to revisit some of his thoughts, and I revisited them on the way to the course.”

No ordinary man, for sure.

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