Justin Thomas: I hate my pal Rory McIlroy in the Ryder Cup
Justin Thomas admits he “hates” good friend Rory McIlroy during Ryder Cup matches and would even be desperate to beat his own wife if she was on the opposing team.
Thomas and Jordan Spieth combined to beat McIlroy and Ian Poulter in a foursomes match in Paris in 2018, with Thomas then beating McIlroy in the opening singles at Le Golf National.
That meant Thomas ended the week with four points from five matches in a losing cause and such results were a key factor in the two-time major winner receiving a wild card from captain Zach Johnson despite a poor season by his standards.
Asked how he separates the passion and emotions of the Ryder Cup from regular events, Thomas said: “I would say I would just kind of channel the things that I feel because it’s nothing personal.
“Rory is a great example. I love Rory. We get along extremely well. He’s been a role model of mine. He was super nice to me when I was first starting up. He still is. We see each other a bunch.
“Yeah, we played each other in the Ryder Cup and, yeah, we hated each other for 18 holes. Again, it’s nothing personal. It’s not a dislike as a person.
“My wife knows; if Jill teed it up in the Ryder Cup for the other team, I’m going to try to beat her pretty bad.”
Thomas and Spieth will renew their successful partnership in Rome and the latter is embracing the potential for a “rowdier, more football-like” atmosphere than he experienced in Paris.
“I try and just throw it out of my head and just stick to what I’m doing because I think blocking out the noise is the healthiest thing to do,” the three-time major winner said.
“I played a lot of matches with Patrick Reed and when he felt insulted, he turned the notch up. When I feel insulted, I don’t turn it up or down. I’m just like, OK, they are drunk, move on.
“I’ve also shouted plenty of things at sporting events at people that I have no reason to do, so I also try to say ‘pot and kettle’ and recognise that it’s all just sport and move on.”
Spieth was also keen to move away from talk of the United States suffering 30 years of hurt, their last win on European soil coming at The Belfry in 1993.
“We’ve been made very aware of how long it’s been,” Spieth said. “It’s not something we really care about, to be honest.
“Over half the team wasn’t born yet the last time we won over here. Most of the guys weren’t on any of those losing away teams. I was on two of them, but I felt like I played good golf. And all you can try and do is have a winning record and if everyone on your team does, you dominate the other team.
n Europe’s Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald has cranked up the emotion in the team room this week by bringing his players to tears but it is all part of the plan to get his stars ready to regain the trophy from the United States.
The tactic of having messages from family relayed in meetings during the build-up has been well used in the past by both sides and the Americans will have undoubtedly done the same at Marco Simone.
And while the videos tug at the heartstrings, they are used as a tool to help boost confidence and reinforce the reasons for their presence in Rome this week.
“It’s an emotional week and even some of the stuff that’s happened already this week would get you quite emotional,” said Irishman Shane Lowry, who famously said after the defeat in Whistling Straits two years ago he had cried then – but not for his 2019 Open win or the birth of his first child.
“There’s videos that are played in the team rooms in the evenings, motivational videos and it just kind of hits home a little bit.
“I’m not going to elaborate much further than that, but Luke and his team have done a great job already this week on Monday and Tuesday.”
World number three Jon Rahm did, however, expand a little further on what they have been viewing behind closed doors.
“I don’t know how much of that they’re going to post, so that’s kind of personal for us,” he added.
“There’s very few players not shedding a few tears yesterday afternoon. I can say that.
“Individually there’s a lot of freshness to this event within our squad.”