Sometimes it's not the winning, but being taken apart that counts.
For the engaged and emotionally drained Rory McIlroy, losing in the Ryder Cup is more than enough to make a grown man cry.
Lowry hits out at 'idiots' in Ryder Cup crowd
Which it did on Sunday evening as gloomy skies in Wisconsin matched the crestfallen Northern Irishman's hangdog expression full of foreboding and regret at a 43rd Ryder Cup that turned into a wake for Padraig Harrington's annihilated holders in a record 19-9 flogging, the heaviest winning scoreline in the modern format of the event since Europe signed up in 1979.
It is easy to forget they once donned cheeseheads in eager anticipation of a successful defence earlier in the week before realising the camembert chemistry had been left behind at Golf Le National in Paris three years ago. That 17.5-10.5 victory feels like a long time ago.
- McIlroy breaks down during emotional interview
- DeChambeau drives the green and makes an eagle, cracks joke with crowd
For a figure who has carried off four majors and 25 tournaments on both sides of the pond, it is ironic that McIlroy's greatest, bravest and most passionate performance came on arguably the worst night of his career under the intense glare of TV cameras with a microphone stuffed under his nostrils.
For McIlroy, it was raw and brutal to watch as his soul was stripped to the bone, but also showed the importance of pride in performance by a champion golfer both in spirit, stature and straight talking.
It made for essential viewing in the importance of team spirit over individual ambition. Money does not make the man.
"I have never really cried or got emotional over what I've done as an individual," said McIlroy.
I couldn't really give a s**t, but this team and what it means..to see Sergio (Garcia) break records, to see Jon Rahm come into his own, to see my best friend Shane Lowry make his Ryder Cup debut. It is phenomenal and I'm so happy to be a part of it.
"I'm disappointed I didn't contribute more this week."
As Europe's gloomy predicament trailing 11-5 at the start of the final day quickly turned to brutal reality at Whistling Straits with the US suddenly enjoying more singles success than Tinder, McIlroy's mood was one of tearful mourning despite a 3-2 win over Xander Schauffele in the top match.
For the former world number one and the rest of the European side, the damage had been done long before this juncture with the inspired youth of the US side – eight of them inside the world's top 10 – running amok in the foursomes and fourballs with some glorious shot-making before a raucous crowd of 40,000.
"It is by far the best experience in golf, and I hope the boys and girls watching this today will aspire to play in this event, or the Solheim Cup, because there's nothing better than being a part of a team, especially with the bond that we have in Europe," said McIlroy.
The singles always looked to be a long day for the visitors with the jubilant Team America utterly rampant as they won 8-4 having led 11-5 overnight to complete the destruction and a third Ryder Cup triumph since 2008.
Ahead of the autopsy this week on what went so badly wrong, at least the European corpse twitched as McIlroy claimed his first point of the week after losing two fourball matches alongside Ian Poulter and Shane Lowry respectively and a foursomes encounter with Poulter, who also recovered some personal pride with a 3&2 victory over Tony Finau in the singles.
Professional sport remains unique in its ability to throw up some moments of genuine, striking, inimitable theatre and the US dream team lived up to their billing as 8/15 favourites under captain Steve Stricker, who could probably have drawn random lots for the pairings and still struck gold.
This magnificent US side could be a potent force for years to come with Patrick Cantlay, Scottie Scheffler, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger all earning points on Sunday.
Open champion Collin Morikawa holed the winning putt in his halved match with Viktor Hovland to get the party started on a Sunday devoid of the usual tension due to the obvious gulf in form and finishing power between the sides.
Europe's other point came from Lee Westwood against Harris English in what may well be the Englishman's final appearance as a player in an event he first appeared in back in 1997. Back when the great Seve Ballesteros was captain.
Westwood's time to lead the side is surely coming down the tube. Perhaps in Rome in 2023 when Europe will attempt to continue the theme of winning in front of your home crowd with seven of the past eight battles being won at home. Europe's Miracle of Medinah in 2012 from 10-6 behind was never a realistic possibility against such formidable talent.
"My players did everything I could ask for them, it was just a tough week. I couldn't have asked for more, " said Harrington.
"It was always going to be a tall order against a strong US team, a lot of things went against us.
"The US had momentum all the time, they holed putts and kept going. Maybe the crowds were some part of that. When we holed a putt there was silence."
America whooped and hollered like there was no tomorrow with beers in hand, but the most striking, human and heartfelt memory was left by McIlroy, whose dismay and disappointment merely illustrated the very essence of a champion golfer floored by such a devastating defeat.
Sunday's Ryder Cup singles
- Xander Schauffele v Rory McIlroy 3&2
- 4&2 Patrick Cantlay v Shane Lowry
- 4&3 Scottie Scheffler v Jon Rahm
- 3&2 Bryson DeChambeau v Sergio Garcia
- A/S Collin Morikawa v Viktor Hovland
- 1UP Dustin Johnson v Paul Casey
- 2&1 Brooks Koepka v Bernd Wiesberger
- Tony Finau v Ian Poulter 3&2
- 4&3 Justin Thomas v Tyrrell Hatton
- Harris English v Lee Westwood 1UP
- A/S Jordan Spieth v Tommy Fleetwood
- 1UP Daniel Berger v Matt Fitzpatrick
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