CHASKA, Minnesota (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy’s Tour Championship-FedExCup Series double in Atlanta at the weekend has given Europe’s team a mighty fillip ahead of the Ryder Cup, said captain Darren Clarke on Monday.
World number three McIlroy rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt at the fourth playoff hole on Sunday to beat American Ryan Moore and win the season-ending PGA Tour event, FedExCup honors and a mind-boggling $10 million bonus.
“From a European perspective it is always good to have one of our members win the week before the Ryder Cup,” a hay-fever stricken Clarke told a news conference after arriving at Hazeltine National.
”With the guys that were traveling here today on the plane, we were all there last night with all our caddies in the bar in the hotel watching it on the big screen. Everyone was delighted and excited.
“Rory is a wonderful young man and an unbelievable golfer so he’s a hugely inspirational figure for our team and I feel very lucky he’s on our European side.”
McIlroy vaulted into the playoff with a barnstorming finish to his final round, holing out from 140 yards to eagle the same 16th hole where he would clinch the win 90 minutes later.
”To see Rory showing that fighting spirit and battling the way he did was wonderful,“ said Clarke as he constantly dabbed away at his nose with a handkerchief. ”Rory is a very, very talented young man.
“He has played very well all year. He wasn’t knocking the putts in before but he has done a little these past few weeks.”
The 27-year-old Northern Irishman stormed home in 30 strokes to catch, and eventually overtake, the leaders on Sunday.
“To shoot what he did on the back nine ... I think that was very impressive,” said Clarke.
“Ryan Moore was very strong yesterday. Rory hung in there, gave himself some opportunities ... and then made birdie on the last playoff hole.”
Clarke was also having to hang in there at his joint news conference with United States captain Davis Love III on Monday.
“I’ve come off the plane with a really bad case of hay fever,” said the Northern Irishman who has been plotting his Ryder Cup campaign for months.
“My nose is dribbling and running (but) it was a good trip. I managed to get six hours’ sleep which is probably the most I’ve had in two months.”
The Ryder Cup starts on Friday.
Editing by Frank Pingue