Rory McIlroy hopes being reunited with his Ryder Cup winning team-mates and Captain José María Olazábal can inspire him to success at The European Tour’s flagship BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club this week.
All 12 European players who pulled off the Miracle of Medinah last year, as well as skipper Olazábal, were present at the Players’ Awards Dinner to celebrate The Ryder Cup and 2012’s other successes.
And McIlroy hopes those memories can aid him as he bids to improve on his record at Wentworth Club’s West Course, where his best finish is fifth in 2009.
“It was great,” McIlroy said of the awards dinner. “It was nice. We had a nice little presentation before we left for the dinner, all 12 of us together. José presented us with a nice gift or a memento for the week in the hotel that we are staying at. It was just great to have all the guys back together again.
“José was just giving a speech and this is before we left to go to the dinner. I felt like, I don't want to lose it here, he's such an inspirational character, and just being with all of them brings back so many great memories of that week.
“It's the best I said this last night, but I'm very proud of my individual achievements in golf, but by far the best experiences I've had on a golf course have been at Ryder Cup.”
McIlroy’s chances of adding The European Tour’s flagship event to his two Major Championship wins have been boosted by what the World Number Two from Northern Ireland believes are perfect conditions for his game.
“It's always great to be back at Wentworth,” he added. “I think it's an event that all of the Europeans and people on The European Tour look forward to coming back to every year - it sort of kicks off the golf season in Europe leading up to The Open Championship.
“It's always a great atmosphere. You play in front of crowds who really get behind the tournament and are very supportive.
“Everyone knows it's been a slow start to the season for me, but I feel the last few weeks have been really, really good. I'm really excited and positive where my game is at.
“It's just a matter of holing a few more putts and if I can do that, and keep giving myself chances to win tournaments, get into contention and sooner or later, hopefully walk through that door and get the first win of the season.
“I think the way the course is set up this week, I'm more comfortable on it than the last few years, because last year we had unbelievable weather and it played really firm.
“This year it's a little softer which I think suits me a bit more. It's a scoreable golf course, this week especially, with the conditions being quite soft, it just depends how the weather is.”
Another player looking forward to returning to Wentworth is South Africa’s Ernie Els.
“It's always special to come here,” said Els, who won seven World Match Play titles at the venue. “We have got a good connection with Wentworth Estate, having had a house here since 1998.
“The kids went to school here, so it was home for us for a long time. We live in the US now, but love coming back.
“Obviously the golf course, we made some changes a couple of years ago. I’ve got quite a nice affiliation with the club, so it's just great to be back and playing in the Flagship Event.
“We've got an unbelievable field - I think this is one of the better ones we've had for quite some time, so it’s very exciting.”