September 24, 2014
Europe's Rory McIlroy plays a shot on the 15th fairway as Sergio Garcia, left, and Martin Kaymer look along the fairway during a practice round ahead of the Ryder Cup golf tournament at Gleneagles, Scotland, Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Peter Morris
Peter Morrison

GLENEAGLES, Scotland (AP) Just in case Rory McIlroy needed any more motivation to beat the United States in the Ryder Cup, he found the right man to fire him up.

McIlroy said he was in a ''trance'' as the Europe team received a pep talk from Alex Ferguson, who guided Manchester United to 13 Premier League titles and is considered Britain's greatest football manager.

The No. 1-ranked McIlroy, a devoted United supporter who showed off the claret jug - the British Open trophy - at Old Trafford last month, sounded like a star-struck kid who had just met his idol.

''I was just sitting there and looking up at him and I didn't take my eyes off him,'' the four-time major winner said on Wednesday, two days before Europe starts the defense of the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles. ''I was sort of in this trance just listening to everything that he was saying.''

Ferguson, a Scot who retired last year after 26 seasons at United, spoke to the Europe team for about 30 minutes on Tuesday night and then answered questions.

Without giving details, McIlroy said the room fell silent as Ferguson recounted experiences of big matches and some of his players.

''He's very inspirational,'' the Northern Irishman said. ''He's got a lot of authority, and the room just goes quiet and everyone listens. It was a great experience for everyone, but especially for me being a big Manchester United fan.''

McIlroy is the star of a European team that is strongly favored to retain the trophy. The Europeans have won five of the last seven Ryder Cups, and the United States hasn't won in Europe since 1993 at The Belfry. Europe features four players ranked in the top six.

With that in mind, Ferguson spoke about how his teams thrived as being favorites and being virtually unbeatable at home, turning Old Trafford into a fortress. Ferguson said Europe could feel the same way on home turf.

''He talked a bit about that. We're slight favorites for a reason,'' McIlroy said. ''We've played well this year. It's not something we should shy away from. It's something that we should embrace.''

Even players who are not United fans can take inspiration from Ferguson, McIlroy said, adding that his words could provide a little spark that makes the difference when all the points are counted on Sunday.

''Everyone has to respect what Alex Ferguson has done,'' McIlroy said. ''These things, they help. They are little details in the bigger picture, but it would be that half a percent or that one percent that helps us to get back that little trophy.''

Sergio Garcia, a Spaniard who supports Real Madrid, also came away impressed.

''When you have the possibility of listening to somebody that has been up there in sports and he's been able to perform at a really high level for that long, it's always interesting to pick his brain and see what thing he's gone through,'' Garcia said.

The message he picked up from Ferguson: ''Confidence, belief, never giving up.''

Ferguson also showed his lighter side.

Team captain Paul McGinley said the former coach joked with the caddies and gave ''a lot of stick'' to Ian Poulter for being an Arsenal fan, and Thomas Bjorn for being a Liverpool supporter. He reminded Lee Westwood's caddie, Billy Foster, that 17 players from Leeds ended up at Man United.

''Billy let him know what he thought in no uncertain terms,'' McGinley said. ''The caddies enjoyed that he was standing up to Alex Ferguson in this room full of all his peers. It was just a bit of banter. In some ways, I'm sure he felt very much connected back with the football dressing room.''


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