Ryder Cup: Rory McIlroy star-struck at Sir Alex Ferguson talk

By Tom FordyceChief sports writer at Gleneagles
Sir Alex Ferguson
Sir Alex Ferguson is a keen golfer

World number one Rory McIlroy hailed the sage words of Sir Alex Ferguson after the former Manchester United manager delivered a stirring speech to Europe's Ryder Cup team.

Ferguson spoke to captain Paul McGinley's players about the key to winning as favourites as the home side look to win their eighth contest in 10.

McIlroy said: "United were favourites and whenever he was managing, they made Old Trafford a bit of a fortress - when teams went there, it was very hard to compete against United."

He added: "We're slight favourites for a reason. We deserve to be. We've played well this year. It's not something that we should shy away from. It's something that we should embrace."

McIlroy 'in trance' at Ferguson talk

McIlroy, the dominant player in golf this year and the biggest superstar on show at Gleneagles, admitted to being star-struck by his audience with the man who led his favourite team to such success over 27 years.

The 25-year-old was booed after mentioning Unitedexternal-link in his winner's speech at this year's Open Championship at Hoylake.

He said: "For me, being a Manchester United fan, it was the highlight of the week so far.

"I was just sitting there and looking up at him, and I didn't take my eyes off him.

"I was in this trance just listening to everything that he was saying, thinking, this is all the stuff that he's probably said to Manchester United teams over the years.

Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia
Rory McIlroy has won four Ryder Cup matches, lost three and halved two

"It was very useful, because we got to ask some questions, about what he thought was the key element to being successful, and successful as a team.

"He's a very inspirational sort of man when he talks. He's got a lot of authority and the room just goes quiet and everyone listens."

Before Ferguson's address, McGinley explained the thinking behind inviting the Scot to speak to his players.

"He is a guy who I played with at pro-am about 15 years ago and when I became captain I asked if he would do it," he said.

"I always loved the way his teams played. The more I met him the more it seemed a natural fit."

The celebrity speech has become a fixture in the build-up to Ryder Cups, with the USA having used former president George W Bush and celebrated F16 pilot Major Dan Rooney in past years to lift their teams.

US captain Tom Watson revealed his side were addressed by members of Wounded Warriors, an injured servicemen charity, at Gleneagles on Tuesday night.

"We had some men who suffered nearly the ultimate sacrifice for their country, and to be able to speak to the players, and the caddies, as well, was a wonderful experience for everybody," said Watson. "There are people out there doing work that very few other people will do in the world. That was the message."

Captain Paul McGinley on Sir Alex Ferguson

Ferguson followed in the footsteps of Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola, who addressed the Europe team at Medinah in 2012, and Welsh rugby legend Gareth Edwards, who spoke at Celtic Manor two years previously.

McIlroy said: "These things, they help. They are little details in the bigger picture, but it would be that half a per cent or that one per cent that helps us to get back that little trophy.

"The one thing that I remember about Celtic Manor is we all got on a conference call with Seve Ballesteros - all of us huddled around this little speakerphone and Seve just rallied the troops.

"Seve was back in Spain and couldn't travel; he obviously wasn't feeling too well at that time."

McIlroy, who won two of the four majors this year in a summer of domination, said he would be content wherever he was used by McGinley.

It has been rumoured that the captain would put his biggest name out in the first fourball pairing on Thursday morning, looking to establish an early advantage over Tom Watson's American underdogs.

"That's completely Paul's decision," said McIlroy.

"I have a job to do which is to go out and win points for Europe, and I don't care what number I play or who I play with."

Venue: Gleneagles, Scotland Dates: 26-28 September Start times: 07:35 and 13:15 BST on Friday and Saturday and 11:36 BST on Sunday.
Coverage: Live radio and text commentary on BBC Radio 5 live, online, tablets, mobiles and BBC Sport app. Highlights on BBC Two.

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