McIlroy hopes eagle dance inspires Team Europe

Jordan Spieth of the United States plays his shot from the second tee in the ...
Jordan Spieth of the United States plays his shot from the second tee in the morning foursome matches during the 41st Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club. PHOTO/Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Rory McIlroy helped reinvigorate a European challenge with an emotional celebration on the 16th hole after he drained a walk off eagle putt to cap the first day of the 41st Ryder Cup.

McIlroy and playing partner Thomas Pieters defeated Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar 3 and 2 to lead an afternoon charge that saw Europe claim three of four four-ball matches Friday at Hazeltine National golf course.

“We want to ride this little wave of momentum we have,” said McIlroy.

McIlroy’s celebration on the par-five 16 began with a formal bow to hostile fans followed by a fist pump and a couple of chest bumps thrown in for good measure.

“I bowed to them and said, ‘You’re welcome for the show’ and we move on,” said McIlroy who was trying to light a fire under his team after they were routed 4-0 by the host Americans in the morning session.

“It was pretty hostile out there,” said McIlroy of the raucous Ryder Cup fans. “You don’t want to let that get to you. You just want to let them know when you hole a putt how much it means to you.”

McIlroy’s largely untested Team Europe still trails 5-3 in points as they seek to win an unprecedented fourth straight Ryder Cup in a row.

McIlroy said he rehearsed in his mind how he was going to celebrate the eagle putt on 16 because he wanted to send a message to the pro-US crowd, which he thought had overstepped the bounds of golf etiquette by cheering a few of the missed shots from the Europeans.

“I wanted to put an exclamation point on that session,” he said. “I honestly actually thought about the celebration.

“I knew it had a good chance of going in. It was downhill and I just had to get it started on the right line and gravity did the rest.

– ‘Not going down without a fight’ –

“We are not going down without a fight. It was four-zip in the morning. We pulled it back a good bit and we plan to pull it back even further tomorrow.”

The US got one more victory in the afternoon Friday from Brandt Snedeker and Brooks Koepka, giving them the same 5-3 first day lead they had in 2012 in Medinah.

The USA is looking for redemption after suffering a heartbreaking loss on home soil four years ago in Chicago when they fell victim to the greatest last-day comeback in Ryder Cup history, Europe’s 14 1/2-13 1/2 win.

The Europeans are seeking to continue their domination which includes winning six of the last seven Ryder Cups while the Americans are trying to earn their first title since 2008.

McIlroy said it is just a few bad apples who were cheering the mistakes from Team Europe players.

“Most people are respectful and are just cheering really hard for the US team,” he said.

“But still it is a hostile environment. People out there don’t want you to hole a putt. They don’t want you to hit a good shot.

“When you do hole a putt or hit a good shot it just makes it that much more satisfying.”

McIlroy said coming back from 4-0 down in the morning has boosted their confidence.

“The whole team played with a lot of heart. We went out there with the mindset of if we could just win this session somehow, we would be right back in it.”

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Story By AFP
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