McIlroy Needs To Find A Higher Gear If Europe Is To Have A Chance

Our man at Whistling Straits, Garrett Johnston, recaps on day one of the 43rd Ryder Cup

Rory McIlroy and Padraig Harrington pictured
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Our man at Whistling Straits, Garrett Johnston, recaps on day one of the 43rd Ryder Cup

Day 1 at the Ryder Cup got off to a testing start for Padraig Harrington’s Team Europe.

They of course dropped three matches to one in Friday morning foursomes.

Funnily enough, that’s the same margin they trailed by in 2018 after the first morning session in Paris.

Then-Ryder Cup European captain Thomas Bjorn shook up a couple of his pairings and they swept all four afternoon matches to take an improbable 5-3 lead going into Saturday.

Bjorn also had the unstoppable “Moliwood” pairing at Le Golf National, Padraig Harrington doesn’t have that luxury at Whistling Straits.

Harriington did make some lineup changes for Day 1’s afternoon pairings, but didn’t get much from his team as they produced only one more point to now trail 6-2.

Of the eight different pairings Harrington has sent out through day one, only the Sergio Garcia/Jon Rahm grouping has won a match and full point.

Related: Ryder Cup Tee Times and Pairings

Considering the U.S. led 3-1 entering the afternoon, it’s a bit surprising Harrington didn’t stick with the one pairing that worked early.

The Irishman did admit that nothing that happened in the morning affected his afternoon groupings.

“No, we had a plan, we stuck to the plan,” Harrington told the media.

“I thought the players played well this morning. That's match play.”

And now Rory McIlroy will sit out his first Ryder Cup session of his career this morning, after going 26 straight leading back to 2010 at Celtic Manor.

He had perhaps the most frustrating opening day Friday, going 0-2 at Whistling Straits.

There’s no question he will need to find a higher gear quickly this weekend if Europe is to have a chance.

Paul McGinley mentioned to Golf Monthly on Thursday that America’s depth and strength put Harrington behind the eight ball from the event’s start.

McGinley’s initial thought for Harrington was to front-load his team the first two days with his best eight players because he had “three to four players coming in out of form.”

Obviously it’s too late for that now, but there’s no question Harrington will need a massive comeback from his players today just to have a chance on Sunday.

Whistling Straits observation

One observation about the Ryder Cup crowds on Day 1 at Whistling Straits was that hundreds of them stood near empty tee-boxes on the back nine or in grandstands and waited for players to come through.

I don’t recall seeing so many willingly skipping out on the live golf at Medinah or Hazeltine, but perhaps they didn’t want to deal with limited, crowded views in the four matches on the course.

Garrett Johnston is a Golf Monthly contributor and host of the Beyond the Clubhouse podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnstonGarrett. He’s covered over 30 major championship and three Ryder Cups. The 2012 Miracle at Medinah remains his favorite event he’s ever attended to this day.

Garrett Johnston

Garrett Johnston is a golf reporter and presenter who’s covered pro golf for 12 years including over 30 majors. His goal each year is always to “grow with the rookies” on Tour. The idea is to get to know the superstars before they become household names. Tony Finau, Gary Woodland, and Patrick Reed are just some of the players Johnston has covered from their early pro careers for their hometown newspapers. Johnston’s favorite event is always The Open, and he credits his unforgettable experience covering the 2015 Open at St. Andrews where he got to interview Tom Watson (in his final Open) and winner Zach Johnson exclusively throughout the week as his favorite event so far. Johnston has also developed a strong rapport with Tour caddies and regularly contributes to Caddie Network and He also has his own podcast: Beyond The Clubhouse (opens in new tab)