McIlroy rounds off Europe comeback with an 'eagle dance'

Rory McIlroy of Europe reacting on the 16th green after making a putt to win the match during afternoon four-ball matches of the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club on Friday.
Rory McIlroy of Europe reacting on the 16th green after making a putt to win the match during afternoon four-ball matches of the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club on Friday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

CHASKA (Minnesota) • 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 golf's 41st Ryder Cup.

The Northern Irishman 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 on Friday at Hazeltine National golf course.

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

His celebration on the par-five 16th hole 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 the world No. 3.

McIlroy was trying to light a fire under his team after they were routed 4-0 by the hosts, inspired by the legend of Arnold Palmer, in the morning session.

  • RYDER CUP

    DAY 1: USA 5 EUROPE 3

    MORNING FOURSOMES: USA 4 EUROPE 0

    • Jordan Spieth/Patrick Reed bt Justin Rose (Eng)/Henrik Stenson (Swe) 3 & 2

    • Dustin Johnson/Matt Kuchar bt Thomas Pieters (Bel)/Lee Westwood (Eng) 5 & 4

    • Jimmy Walker/Zach Johnson bt Sergio Garcia (Esp)/Martin Kaymer (Ger) 4 & 2

    • Phil Mickelson/Rickie Fowler bt Rory McIlroy (Nir)/ Andy Sullivan (Eng) 1 up

    AFTERNOON FOUR-BALL: USA 1 EUROPE 3

    • Spieth/Reed lost to Rose/Stenson 5 & 4

    • Brandt Snedeker/Brooks Koepka bt Kaymer/ Danny Willett (Eng) 5 & 4

    • J.B. Holmes/Ryan Moore lost to Rafa Cabrera Bello (Esp)/Garcia 3 & 2

    • Johnson/Kuchar lost to McIlroy/Pieters 3 & 2

"It was pretty hostile out there. 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," he added.

Europe still trail 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 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.

"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."

Darren Clarke said he was "extremely proud" of his team's four-ball display.

Europe's captain added: "They showed tremendous bravery and heart and desire to go out and play the way they have done."

Davis Love III, Clarke's opposite number, conceded different emotion.

"It was a long day, frustrating a little bit to not come out a little bit further ahead," he said.

"I know Darren is happy with the momentum."

The United States are looking for redemption after suffering a heartbreaking loss on home soil four years ago in Medina when they fell victim to the greatest last-day comeback in Ryder Cup history, Europe's 141/2-131/2 win.

Coincidentally, the scoreline at Hazeltine on Friday was precisely the same as what they took from Friday into Saturday at Medinah.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

RYDER CUP

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 02, 2016, with the headline 'McIlroy rounds off Europe comeback with an 'eagle dance''. Print Edition | Subscribe