HAVEN, WIS. – On a singles Sunday when he was one of only three players who won a match for Europe, Rory McIlroy fought back tears.
Until Sunday, McIlroy had gone 0-3 in the 43rd Ryder Cup's first two days at Whistling Straits and was benched Saturday morning for the first time since he played his first in 2010.
His one point earned Sunday for beating Olympic champion Xander Schauffele is one of just four points Europe owned when a leaderboard wave of red washed them away.
The U.S. team's 19-9 victory is a modern-day record for points scored since European players joined Great Britain and Ireland in 1979.
"Glad I got a point for Europe, but disappointed I didn't do it sooner," McIlroy said. "Good opportunities Friday and Saturday to sort of lift us out of a hole and I wasn't able to do it. It has been a tough week personally and then obviously for the team as well. ... We've been against it. The American team, they have been really, really good and we haven't been able to put up as much of a fight as we want."
As 40-something Ryder Cup stars Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter did Sunday, McIlroy, too, choked back tears talking about a biennial tournament he called the "best event in golf, bar none."
"I've said naive and stupid things in the past, but this is by far the biggest tournament that we have in golf," McIlroy said. "You look at the crowds. You look at what it means. It's the best. I love being a part of it. I can't wait to be a part of many, many more. …
"I haven't been able to contribute as much as I wanted. No one was more disappointed the way I played than me, but it's still such a great experience to be part of these Ryder Cup teams and this will just fill the fire even more of us in two years' time in Rome."
Feeling better fast
Schauffele fell behind by three holes by the 11thhole against McIlroy, who was a surprise pick to lead Europe off Sunday with a six-point deficit after the first two days.
"It was a bad day to play poorly without a partner," he said. "I was happy to see a lot of red when I looked up at the board. My spirits were lifted quickly after I lost. I think it's the fastest I ever got over losing something."
Spain's Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm each lost their singles matches Sunday, but their pairing together the first two days conjured images of the great Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal's Ryder Cup partnership.
"I can say those two days, those matches with Sergio, what it means to the history of the game, I am an admirer of what Seve and Ollie were able to do," Rahm said. "To tee it up with him [Garcia], he's living Ryder Cup history. I grew up watching him play, watching Seve and Ollie and that legacy is important. To be able to win those matches the way we did, that is undoubtedly the most fun I've had on a golf course. I'm hoping I can keep playing good enough to be on this team again."
At age 48, Westwood played in an 11thRyder Cup, a record he now shares with Nick Faldo. After possibly playing in his last one, he was asked about when his time as captain might come. He was a vice captain for Thomas Bjorn in Paris in 2018.
"I've played in a load of Ryder Cups and it's something I'd love to do," he said. "I'm going to have to sit down over the next few months and weigh everything. I still feel like I've got a lot of golf in me. I said on the last green, could be my last match and I don't want it to be. I'm 49 next April and it's more likely that it is."
Four members of Hazeltine National's executive committee spent the week at Whistling Straits preparing for the Ryder Cup's return to Chaska in 2029.
They met with the PGA of America, toured the grandstand and corporate-tenting buildouts, and brushed up on the latest hospitality trends. They also attended Thursday's opening ceremony.