If Rory McIlroy’s significance to Europe was obvious in advance of this Ryder Cup, few could have envisaged his rising status as battle fever gripped Hazeltine. McIlroy might be the most unlikely of pantomime villains given his routine popularity both on and off the course but that is precisely his role as cast by the galleries here.
Whatever degree of momentum the Americans had enjoyed after Friday morning’s dramatic foursomes sweep had long been exhausted when Lee Westwood and Danny Willett teed off Saturday’s fourball match against JB Holmes and Ryan Moore beneath a cloudless sky and baking Minnesota sun.
Darren Clarke insisted Europe’s Ryder Cup team are not without Sunday hope, despite trailing the USA by three points heading into the singles at Hazeltine.
Finding appropriate context or comparison for the behaviour of spectators at a Ryder Cup is not particularly easy.
With four matches of this Ryder Cup complete Europe’s obituary was half-written. The USA, inspired by the legend of Arnold Palmer, claimed the first session of the event with a whitewash not seen since The King was captain in 1975.
Rory McIlroy insisted the European team mood is “buoyant” after an afternoon Ryder Cup recovery took Darren Clarke’s men from a morning deficit of 4-0 to 5-3 by close of play on day one at Hazeltine. McIlroy, who celebrated in emphatic style after converting an eagle putt on the 16th green to seal a third point for Europe, admitted to being inspired in part by a “hostile” home crowd.
The problem with golf’s time in the spotlight is the recent propensity for that focus to be negative. Never before has this sport, apparently in the midst of a scrap for relevance and identity, so needed a scintillating Ryder Cup.
Danny Willett fears he has become a “target” for American fans at his maiden Ryder Cup with the Masters champion also conceding his experience has been tarnished and his focus hard to maintain.
Darren Clarke has expressed anger after the brother of Danny Willett used an online column to attack American fans in a supposedly light-hearted way that has spectacularly backfired.
In what will be portrayed either as a motivational masterstroke or a needless act of compassion, Bubba Watson has been named as a fifth and final vice-captain to the USA Ryder Cup team.
Rory McIlroy seems to abide by the adage of the best lesson in life being that it is never too late to learn. As he reflected on a season that will end on Sunday, he admitted being “too proud” and “too stubborn” has been costly.
No sooner had Hideki Matsuyama made history in Shanghai than scrutiny intensified as to what, in Turkey, the golfing world may encounter next. For Matsuyama, the 24-year-old from Japan, a three-week run has returned $2.7m and will ensure he is ranked sixth in the world.
The bookmakers still believe in Tiger Woods in spite of last week’s performance in the US Open.
Henrik Stenson spoke of the inner belief that he would win the 145th Open Championship, with the Swede dedicating the Claret Jug to a late friend after claiming his first major in stunning fashion.
Tiger Woods is scheduled to make his long-awaited comeback to competitive golf at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas next month.
Padraig Harrington has drawn upon a bleak period in Northern Ireland’s history to play down concerns over the staging of the Turkish Airlines Open this week.
Danny Willett’s 2016 will forever be defined by the donning of the Green Jacket.
Rory McIlroy had a potential out from golf’s Olympic return from the moment that landmark decision was voted through in 2009. The delicacy of a Northern Irish sportsman, not least one as high-profile as McIlroy, having to declare for an Irish or British Olympic team meant the option of passing up the 2016 Games entirely was initially a live prospect.
Tiger Woods, beset by injuries and the decline of his playing career, appears to have at least one person who still believes in him. And that person is Tiger Woods. In an interview with Charlie Rose on PBS on Thursday night, the former world No1 said he is targeting an imminent return to golf as well as more victories in the majors.
There is reason Tiger Woods did not only win the Masters this year. It's the same reason Woods did not win the Grand Slam this year.
Sympathy for Keith Pelley was in short supply last week. No sooner had the European Tour’s chief executive praised strong communication with players with regards to safety at the Turkish Airlines Open than one of the group contradicted him.
For a brief Sunday afternoon spell, Thorbjorn Olesen must have contemplated a horror scenario. The seven-shot lead as held by the Dane before the final round of the Turkish Airlines Open had been whittled down to one by the marauding David Horsey. One of the great golfing capitulations of our time was very much on the cards.
Thorbjorn Olesen’s grip on the Turkish Airlines Open is now so tight he would enter golfing legend for all the wrong reasons should he not win.