NEWPORT, Wales – Rory McIlroy’s long-anticipated Ryder Cup debut is in the books, and his opening match ended better than it started. Sparked by a monstrous 30-foot uphill birdie putt made by McIlroy on the par-3 17th hole, he and fellow Ulsterman Graeme McDowell battled back to earn a half point against Americans Stewart Cink and Matt Kuchar.
“We’re really just happy to steal a half point from that, because we looked in trouble,” McDowell said.
McIlroy never seemed to get into any kind of rhythm on Friday, but in Saturday’s early restart he started to look a little more comfortable. Cink’s fifth birdie of the match had given the U.S. pairing a 2-up advantage, but McIlroy birdied the par-3 13th to cut into the deficit. The stage also was his on the par-5 18th, after McDowell and Kuchar laid up and Cink’s go at the green finished a few feet short and trickled back into a pond fronting the green. Instead of laying up, McIlroy took a risky try at the green with his second, and came up woefully short. His fourth shot rolled back into the water as well. No worries. Eventually, the hole was halved with pars. McIlroy relished the overall experience and the charged-up atmosphere, and now hopes he is on to bigger things.
“The real thing,” he called it. “It’s certainly different. It’s fantastic.”
He and McDowell will get another shot at the Kuchar-Cink duo in today’s opening foursomes session, playing in the final match.
“This guy (McIlroy) was off the charts this morning, and he’s one of the greatest players in the world and one of the best players I’ve ever seen,” McDowell said. “One of the keys to winning in the Ryder Cup is having a great partner. I’ve got one.”