Europe heeds O'Connell's call
Paul Connell

Paul Connell

Europe heed Lions legend Paul O'Connell's lunchtime advice not yo panic and fought back at Hazeltine with Rory McIlroy leading the pack.

That was the message of former Munster and Lions rugby legend to Darren Clarke’s European warriors as they battled to come back from a horror start in the Ryder Cup.

The USA got off to the dream start with a 4-0 whitewash in the foursomes.

But O’Connell insisted that Europe must claw their way back “moment by moment” rather than trying to do it all at once. and it worked with a fired up McIlroy hitting back at rowdy Us fans with a closing eagle and a win alongside Thomas Pieters reduced the USA's big lead to just 5-3.

After watching Rory McIlroy and Andy Sullivan lose one up to Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler, O’Connell said: “The atmosphere was incredible and while I only followed Rory’s match, I really thought after 14 they would close it out.

“They both holed a couple of good putts each but they just failed to get up and down on 15 and 16 and things turned.

“It was disappointing — really disappointing — and I am disappointed for them. I know how much they wanted it.

"It is like watching Munster. You know how much they want it and you really want to see them win.

“But look, I know from plenty of occasions that when you start badly and you are a good bit behind, the worst thing you can dory to get them all back in one go.

“You have just got to get back into it moment by moment and not panic. There is plenty of time left. Plenty of time.

“There are a lot of great European players and apart from Rory, I just love watching Henrik Stenson.

“He’s got a wonderful way about him — just great to watch.

“There’s a long way to go in this yet!”

Europe won three of the four afternoon fourballs to halve their lunchtime deficit and go into Saturday morning's foursomes just 5-3 behind.

McIlroy's 3 and 2 win with Pieters over Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar was tinged with controversy as rowdy fans irked the Ulsterman and prompted him to put on a showy celebrations when he converted slick 15 footer for eagle, let out a four-lettered roar and then shook hands with everyone on the US team bar Johnson's caddie and brother, Austin.

RORY McILROY: For me, even before I hit that putt, I wanted to put an exclamation point on that session for us. I honestly actually thought about the celebration before I hit the putt. I sort of knew -- I knew it had a good chance of going in. It was downhill, I just had to get it started on the right line and gravity did the rest.
Yeah, look, it's a hostile environment out there, and I just want everyone that's watching out there to know how much this means to us, how much it means to me personally and obviously us as a team.
You know, we're not going down without a fight. It was 4-zip after the morning. We've pulled it back a good bit, and we plan to pull it back even further going into tomorrow.
Q. Any concern looking back now that maybe that motivates them a little bit that -- how fired up -- that show of emotion.
RORY McILROY: No. No worries on my part. I bowed to them, said, "You're welcome for the show," and we move on (laughter).
Q. I know there were a few, "Get in the waters" when your ball was in the air, but beyond that, was there anything that made you say it was more hostile than Medinah?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, there was a few things. It's hostile out there.
Look, and it's not -- you get the minority of people that are cheering against the other team. Most of the people out there are respectful and are just cheering really hard for the U.S. Team. That's totally acceptable and that's exactly what happens in Europe. But still, it's a hostile environment that the people out there don't want you to hole a putt. They don't want you to hit a good shot. I think when you do hole a putt or hit a good shot, it just makes it that much more satisfying.
Q. What do you think of the crowd cheering after a missed putt or a bad shot, for example, and specifically, Sullivan's shot into the water on 17, that roar? What do you think of that?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, again, look, I'm all for people cheering for their team as much as they possibly can. I mean, that's sports and that's whatever.
That was a little disappointing in my eyes that that happened. But again, it's a minority of people, and you know, most people out there are being respectful and respectful of the etiquette of our game of golf.
You know, as we say, we want this Ryder Cup to be played in a very sportsman like conduct, and a sportsmanlike conduct that the great late Arnold Palmer would be very proud of.
Q. Was the celebration in any way an attempt to show that you guys are not fazed by anything that you hear from the crowd and that you're prepared for that?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, for sure. Obviously not fazed by anything that is said by the crowd and not fazed by anything that the U.S. Team throws at us.
We were 4-nil down going into this afternoon and I thought the whole team showed a lot of heart out there. I mean, just to -- you know, we played for each other. We went out there with the mind-set of if we could just win this session somehow, you would be right back in it.

As I said, I wanted to put an exclamation point on the end of that session and thankfully I was able to do that for my teammates.

Q. Forgive the conjecture, but it looked like maybe you didn't shake Johnson's hand -- was there anything intentional --
RORY McILROY: Oh, did I not? No, no, not at all. I get on really well with AJ and DJ and all the Johnson family. I'll have to go and apologize to him. I did not know that. I sort of got caught up in the moment. AJ, I would class him as a good buddy of mine on Tour, along with DJ. Yeah, I guess I just got caught up in that whole scenario.

Sorry for AJ. To do that definitely wasn't my intention at all, and I'll send him a text or go and find him in the hotel tonight to apologize to him.