"I never really cried or got emotional over what I've done as an individual. I couldn't give a s***" 3 weeks ago

"I never really cried or got emotional over what I've done as an individual. I couldn't give a s***"

Even with big support teams behind the best players, golf can feel painfully solitary at times.

When Rory McIlroy was at the peak of his Major-winning fame, he would often fly back to Northern Ireland and hang out with several of the Ulster rugby players. He loved their team environment and that sense of togetherness and camaraderie.

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He loved being part of something that was bigger than him.

From the age of four, McIlroy has been playing golf. From the age of six, he has been exceptionally good at it. When he was nine, he was invited onto a Northern Irish talk-show to chip golf balls into a washing machine. He is Ireland's Tiger Woods, effectively. He is Europe's Tiger Woods.

You get the sense, now that McIlroy has come of age and settled down in Florida, that there is that love/hate push and pull with golf. It is not his be-all and end-all, but he possesses world class talents. Only in time may we find how close he has come to taking a big step back from the game.

At Whistling Straits, over the weekend, Team Europe needed McIlroy at something close to his peak. He may never get back to that stretch between 2010 and 2014 when he won four majors, but he is still capable of sustained magic. The Ryder Cup usually gets his competitive juices flowing.

This time out, though, he was flat. He was the weaker partner when he was twice teamed up wit Ian Poulter [they lost 5&3 and 4&3] and he was peripheral, too, when paired with Shane Lowry in a four-balls defeat. There was one clutch eagle putt, some tricky par saves, and that was about it.

"It sucks losing," McIlroy reflected on Sunday as his team were on their way to losing 19-9 to Team USA. "It sucks not being able to be competitive."

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Shane Lowry and Rory McIlroy hug on the 16th green after the Offaly native lost to Patrick Cantlay on Day 3 of The Ryder Cup. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

While a lot of attention, in Europe, has been paid to McIlroy's raw yet excellent and heartfelt interview with Sky Sports, comments he then made to NBC told us more about where he sees himself in the world.

For McIlroy, the guy that often gets little joy out of that solo grind, it was all about the team. And, in his heart, he felt he had let the team down. He told NBC:

"I don't think there's any greater privilege to be a part of one of these teams, European or American. It's an absolute privilege. I've gotten to do this six times. They have always been my greatest experiences of my career.

"I have not... I've never really cried or got emotional over what I've done as an individual. I couldn't give a s***. But this team, and what... and what it feels like to be a part of, to see Sergio [Garcia] break records, to see Jon Rahm come into his own this week, to see one of my best friends, Shane Lowry, make his Ryder Cup debut. All that, it's phenomenal and I'm so happy to be a part of it.

"As I said, I'm disappointed that I didn't contribute more this week, but you know, in two years' time, we'll go again... we'll give it another go again. Sorry for swearing, as well.

"I love being a part of this team and I love my teammates so much I should have done more for them this week. I just can't wait to get another shot at this. It is by far the best experience in golf, and I hope little boys and girls watching this today aspire.

"I'm proud of every single one of our players that played this week and our captains and vice captains. I wish could I have done a little more for the team. Glad I got a point on the board today. It's been a tough week."

For someone engaged in such an individual pursuit as golf to say he doesn't give a shit about the individual side of the game is as shocking as it is insightful.

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McIlroy told Sky Sports he hoped that young boys and girls watching The Ryder Cup would aspire to one day play in that competition or, its female equivalent, The Solheim Cup.

He can rest assured that it did.

Who knows what is next for McIlroy. He is working with a new swing coach, these past few months, and may either take a step back from the weekly grind or go extra hard at it.

He is determined to get back to his best, though, and help Europe win back that Ryder Cup in Italy, in two years' time. Team USA are a crack unit now, but you wouldn't put it past this island's best ever golfer.

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