Rory McIlroy is about to see – and hear – the other side of golf.
The likeable lad from Northern Ireland, who has elicited so many cheers here in the states during his brief professional career, will turn into the enemy this week. McIlroy will be competing in his first Ryder Cup, the international match play event that pits the United States against Europe.
This year’s event will be played on American soil at Medinah Country Club, just outside Chicago. The No. 1 player in the world knows he won’t get the southern hospitality he got at the Tour Championship over the weekend.
“People are saying ‘Don’t do that at Medinah next week’ if I hole a putt or whatever,” McIlroy said at East Lake Golf Club over the weekend. “It’s going to be very different for me. I’m not used to anyone sort of rooting against me.”
Europe, winners of four of the past five Ryder Cups, holds the trophy after taking it back in 2010 in Wales.
The Tour Championship offered a little preview of the event. All 12 members of the American team and five members of the European team competed here.
The Tour Championship and FedEx Cup playoff winner Brandt Snedeker was a captain’s pick for the United States. “Playing the week before the Ryder Cup and we’re playing on a tough golf course and getting mentally prepared to grind ourselves out,” said Snedeker of the Ryder Cup prep work at East Lake.
Seven American Ryder Cup players finished in the top 10 of the 30-player Tour Championship field. After Snedeker the rest of the U.S. finishers were: Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson (T-5), Jim Furyk (7), Tiger Woods (T-8), Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar (T-10), Zach Johnson and Phil Mickelson (T-15), Jason Dufner (T-20), Steve Stricker (22) and Keegan Bradley (T-23).
The European team was well represented with its performance at the Tour Championship. Three of the five Euros finished in the top 10 with Justin Rose (2), Luke Donald (T-3) and McIlroy (T-10). Sergio Garcia (T-15) and Lee Westwood (30) rounded out the European representatives.
Even with the pressure of competing for the FedEx Cup playoff title and it’s $10 million prize, players said this week they know it will be nothing like competing for your country.
Most players favored holding the Ryder Cup immediately following the Tour Championship. The PGA Tour took the week off prior to coming to Atlanta, a break in the four-event playoff system. Some players played six straight weeks dating back to the World Golf Championship Bridgestone Invitational followed by the PGA Championship and the Wyndham Championship before the start of the playoffs. The break before the Tour Championship allowed players to rest before getting in tune with their game before golf’s richest event followed by the pressure of international competition.
“I think you look at most guys preparing for majors and it seems like more often than not a guy will play the week before,” Kuchar said. “I think being competitively sharp is helpful. I think coming from a place where you’re grinding over three and four footers, trying to make them helps going into a tournament like the Ryder Cup.”