It comes as somewhat of a surprise that after some 16-years and 227 DP World Tour events, Rory McIlroy will this week make his debut in the DS Automobiles Italian Open on the outskirts of Rome.
The current World No. 2 McIlroy is the standout star taking his place on the Marco Simone course where just over a year’s time will play host to the 44th Ryder Cup.
Marco Simone is located some 25 kilometres to the north-east of the Colosseum that has already been used in promotional shots for the Ryder Cup, and will feature in the ‘One Year To Go’ to take place in Rome in the first week of October.
McIlroy may not have contested an Italian Open but he’s returning on a victory note having captured the 2006 European Amateur Championship in a three stroke success at Biella to the north of Turin.
“I’m excited to make my professional debut in Italy,” he said. “The only other time I played in Italy was the European Amateur Championship in 2006, which I won, so I’ve got a 100 percent record in this country and I’d like to keep that going!
“But it’s great to be here, to see the golf course here at Marco Simone, especially for The Ryder Cup next year. Obviously get some early preparation and get a look at what the course is like but also trying to win a prestigious championship that’s been running for nearly 30 years and a national Open title, which is pretty cool, and some great names on The Italian Open trophy, too.
“So, excited to be here and I’m glad that I could sort of work it into the schedule this year and excited to get going tomorrow.”
McIroy’s appearance will not only delight his Italian fans but also European Captain Luke Donald, though with McIlroy admitting he was always committed to the event before Henrik Stenson was controversially stripped of the European lead reins.
“It was always a part of my schedule for this year and I wanted to play at least one tournament here before The Ryder Cup next year,” said McIlroy.
“The Italian Open is being played in May next year so I knew that that wasn’t going to fit into my schedule because of how busy it is in the United States at that time.
“So, this was a good opportunity. I was already in Europe playing at Wentworth, and it was a good opportunity to see the course. But I’ve had discussions with Luke and you know, we are actually a few of us are meeting for dinner tonight for a little bit of team bonding but also have a talk about the course and how we think it should be set up to favour The European Team.”
Then there’s always the historical aspect of visiting Rome, with McIlroy hoping many of the younger European-born golfing young guns will be among his team-mates.
“Who doesn’t want to come and spend a week in Rome? You know, just walking the around the city last night and the history and the culture, it’s an amazing place,” he said.
“Italy isn’t the biggest golfing nation in the world but I think having a Ryder Cup here can certainly grow that, and if that can inspire the younger generation of Italians to pick up a club and play, and Italy has produced a lot of wonderful players over the year.
“But if it inspires the next generation, that would be wonderful.”
Others who could easily be in Donald’s side and will also tee-up this week include reigning US Open champ Matt Fitzpatrick along with Viktor Hovland, Tyrrell Hatton and Rasmus Hojgaard
Organisers have grouped McIlroy with two likely Marco Simone team-mates in local golfing hero Francesco Molinari and Nicolai Hojgaard
IRISH TEE TIMES (Irish time)
- 7.30am – Rory McIlroy
- 8.10am – Jonathan Caldwell
- 11.10am – Paul Dunne
- 11.50am – Cormac Sharvin
- Full tee-times HERE