McIlroy: Pain of missing Ryder Cup will hit home now with LIV rebels
Ryder Cups aren’t for the faint-hearted or easily offended. The biannual team matchplay dust-up brings out the best of golf in terms of drama and excitement but it comes with plenty of needle. Earlier this week, European vice-captain Thomas Bjorn suggested that the competition’s rookies will “feel like throwing up” when they get to the first tee, such as the enormity of a pressure cooker environment.
But one debutant already knows what it feels like to run the gauntlet of an ultra-hostile crowd and still come out as a winner.
Brian Harman will make his maiden Ryder Cup appearance on Friday for the USA after qualifying automatically for Zach Johnson’s team. He achieved his aim by defying the odds to win the Open Championship in July, taming not just the challenging Wirral links course but also the partisan crowd.
Make no mistake, the Merseyside congregation were very much rooting for a Tommy Fleetwood win or failing that, Rory McIlroy’s fifth major title. Fleetwood hails from Southport, less than an hour north of Hoylake and was comfortably the home favourite.
But American Harman, who hadn’t won on the PGA tour for six years, had other ideas. Fleetwood was the joint leader after Day 1, but from hereon in it was all about the man from across the Atlantic.
Harman finished the second day five shots clear of the Englishman and maintained that cushion over the chasing pack with a 69 on the third round Saturday. Sensing that the American was on course to spoil the party, fans of Fleetwood started to take the matter into their own hands.
“Harman, you don’t have the stones for this,” shouted one spectator at close quarters, before adding: “Be careful what you wish for.”
As it turned out, the 36-year-old did have the ‘stones’, as he shot a final round 70 amid adverse weather conditions to win his first Major on 13 under par – six shots clear of anyone else.
In stark contrast, Fleetwood collapsed on the 17th hole and had to settle for tied tenth. Party officially pooped.
In the wake of the victory, Harman admitted that he knew he had been an unpopular winner but felt that his fairway-side heckler had actually helped him refocus on the job in hand.
As per the New York Post, he said: “It helped snap me back into [thinking that] I’m good enough to do this, that I’m going to do this.”
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USA teammate Brooks Koepka was asked about the chip on Harman’s shoulder ahead of the Ryder Cup in Rome. Speaking on Wednesday, the five-time Major champion said: “I love guys with a chip on their shoulder. I love guys that are very gritty, gritty players. [Harman] never gives up, [is] always battling to the end and ready to prove people wrong.’
“You know people are going to be cheering against you, and I’m sure Brian is ready to hear the silence [of] not have the crowd cheer. I think that’s an added benefit for him. Even when they are cheering, he wants to make them quiet. It’s a little added bonus, that chip on your shoulder.’’
Despite Koepka’s endorsement, which was backed up by skipper Johnson and teammate Sam Burns, Harman has admitted that although his Open triumph was unquestionably character-building, playing in his first Ryder Cup is another ball game.
“I don’t think there’s any way to prepare for it,’’ he said. “I expect them to be as fervent and I expect to be at times overwhelmed by it, just like I was at The Open championship. It was overwhelming at times.
“The best you can do is just acknowledge it and just move forward and try not to let it affect you as best you can. But it will affect you. You’d be silly not to think that.’’
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