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Ryder Cup: Europe inspired by Alex Ferguson but Mickelson manages to rattle them

By Paul Mahoney

Banter: it's the catch-all phrase for the 21st Century covering the default defence of sexists and racists to snide personal digs and good old-fashioned fun. Thankfully, there has been none of the first two this week at Gleneagles but plenty of the last two.

Phil Mickelson fired the first volley in anger yesterday, aiming a broadside shot at the legal wrangle that has tangled up the relationship, and Ryder Cup partnership, of Ulster duo Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.

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It was delivered in jest but he delivered it nonetheless. But that's the thing with banter – one side doesn't always see the funny side of it. But everyone loves banter, right?

It is doubtful, however, that Mickelson's jab would have ruined McIlroy's day.

The Holywood ace was still full of the joys of the banter he and his team-mates had shared with Sir Alex Ferguson on Tuesday night – and a little bit dewy-eyed still over the former manager of his beloved Manchester United.

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

"I was just sitting there and looking at him. I didn't take my eyes off him. I was sort of in this trance just listening to everything that he was saying and thinking this is all the stuff that he's probably said to Manchester United teams over the years. It was a really cool thing to be a part of."

Declining to divulge the exact details that were discussed in the inner sanctum of the Gleneagles Hotel ("there are some Americans in the room"), it is certain there would have been no need for Ferguson to unleash his infamous hairdryer treatment to teams that are underperforming.

This European side is one of the finest ever assembled, with McIlroy as World No 1 and Ian Poulter, a man-possessed during Ryder Cup weeks, leading the way.

McIlroy said that Sir Alex told them to enjoy being favourites and use that to fire the team.

"United were obviously favourites and, whenever he was managing, they made Old Trafford a bit of a fortress," McIlroy said.

"And when teams went there, it was very hard to compete against United. He was just talking a bit about that."

So a rallying cry for the home crowd to play its part, too.

"We're favourites for a reason. We deserve to be," he said.

"It's something we should embrace."

Ferguson may well have been preaching to the converted.

"He's got a lot of authority and the room just goes quiet," McIlroy said.

But not everyone was as in love with him. "Look, not everyone in that room is a Manchester United fan, and they made that known," he said to much laughter.

"But these things help," he added of Ferguson's banter, sorry, motivational speech.

European captain Paul McGinley offered more examples of the banter, sorry, words of wisdom that came from "An Audience With Fergie".

"When it came to the banter, obviously a lot of stick to Ian Poulter being a big Arsenal fan. But the biggest stick was Thomas Bjorn being a Liverpool fan," McGinley said.

"That gave him a lot of pleasure having a go at Thomas but Thomas stood up for himself."

Mickelson's attempt at winding up McIlroy and McDowell over the legal dispute McIlroy is having with his former management company that still represents McDowell was in response to a query about the perceived lack of team bonding in the US side. No such public relations problems for McGinley's Europeans.

He said: "We all get on well and we all have a bit of banter."

Okay, we get it, enough with the banter now.

Ryder Cup: Further Reading

Graeme McDowell admits partnership with Rory McIlroy has run its course

Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell are from the same country, but Rory's on a different planet now

Graeme McDowell: It's simple, Rory McIlroy has just got too big for me

Why Rory McIlroy no longer feels like my little brother says Graeme McDowell as pair tee up for Ryder Cup

Europe Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley is a man driven to succeed 




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