Has Ryder Cup heartache fired Rory McIlroy back to his best after stunning CJ Cup win?

Ryder Cup: Commentator says Rory McIlroy has been ‘scapegoat’

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Rory McIlroy has cemented himself as one of the true modern greats to play the game, and will no doubt have enjoyed more highs in golf than he can even remember. However, arguably his lowest point came on the Saturday evening of last month’s Ryder Cup drubbing.

Team Europe fell to the worst defeat in modern Ryder Cup history in Wisconsin at the hands of the scintillating Americans, and talisman McIlroy was clearly seen as an easy scapegoat.

Following a tough opening day for Padraig Harrington’s side, the Northern Irishman was dropped from a session in the Ryder Cup for the very first time as he missed the Saturday morning fourballs, after losing his two matches on the opening day – another unwanted first.

What he revealed next was a damning evaluation of just how low the four-time major winner had fallen, as he admitted weeks later: “On the Saturday night at the Ryder Cup I was done with golf.”

This was arguably the best – and most consistent – golfer of the last decade revealing he was ‘done’ with the sport he has been at the pinnacle of for the large majority of his career, and for many this could have been the end, but not Rory.

The damage was no doubt already done for McIlroy and his European teammates as they entered the final day of their battle against the Americans all but defeated, but Rory was not leaving Whistling Straits pointless.

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He proudly led his team out in match one of the Sunday singles session and showcased just why he is one of the best on the circuit, as he breezed past newly crowned Olympic champion Xander Schuaffele by beating him 3&2.

What followed just moments after his winning putt on the 16th green reminded many in the golfing world why the Northern Irishman is so highly thought of.

An emotional McIlroy showed just how much succeeding means to him as he broke down in tears in his green-side interview, apologising to his teammates for his uncharacteristic and underwhelming performance live on air.

However this heartfelt confession, along with his impressive singles performance springboarded the former world No 1 back to his scintillating best.

Many would have not blamed the 32-year-old for taking an extended break away from the golf course following what was a mentally, and physically draining week in Wisconsin.

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Even McIlroy himself later revealed he ‘didn’t want to see golf until 2022’ on the Saturday evening at Whistling Straits.

This was until both his game, and mindset were revolutionised less than 24 hours later.

The 2014 Open champion picked himself up and dusted himself down just over two weeks after Ryder Cup heartbreak, as he headed to the CJ Cup more motivated than ever to prove his doubters wrong, and this he did.

Disappointment only seemed to spur him on as he went on to claim the title at the Summit Club by one shot ahead of American golden boy, Collin Morikawa for his landmark 20th PGA Tour win, exactly three weeks on from his green-side tears at Whistling Straits.

Victory was just his second since 2019, which by McIlroy’s immaculate standards was considered somewhat of a career lull. This in turn drew plenty of critics, but in this run it seems the Northern Irishman’s self belief was never far away.

Going into the event in Las Vegas the four-time major winner still believed he was the best in the business as he told the press: “I think when I play my best, I’m the best player in the world.”

To be the world’s best there is no doubt a player’s mentality is just as important as their natural talent and performance, and in Vegas the 32-year-old unquestionably ticked all the boxes.

Whilst McIlroy might not have the coveted number one title next to his name, it seems his pain in Wisconsin could well have been the perfect medicine in sending him back to where he belongs, at the top of the golfing world.

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