McIlroy admits that Hovland is an ideal Ryder Cup partner for any European

Mark McGowan

Rory McIlroy and Viktor Hovland (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy’s quest for a successful defence and a fourth FedExCup title was hampered by injury but the world number two admitted that even fully fit, it would’ve been tough to catch Viktor Hovland and Xander Schauffele with the way they played at East Lake this week.

“Whether I had a good back or not, I’m not sure if I would’ve been able to hang with those two boys in front,” he told Sky Sports after his closing five-under that lifted him to solo fourth on the leaderboard, “another solid week and my game is right where it needs to be and as long as I stall healthy for the next few weeks, I’m excited to get back to Europe, play in Ireland, play at Wentworth and get my game in shape for the Ryder Cup.”

The muscular issue caused concern that his Irish Open appearance may be in doubt with the Ryder Cup looming on the horizon, but though still not 100 percent in yesterday’s final round, barring an aggravation he should be back in top shape by the time he arrives at the K Club.


“It was sort of as I expected,” he said, “got looser as the week went on and today, honestly it was, it wasn’t 100 percent but it was pretty close to it. I didn’t really feel that much out there. Still a tiny bit, but I wish I’d felt like this the rest of the days.”

Later on, McIlroy paid tribute to Viktor Hovland’s impressive form and it comes as no surprise to McIlroy given the Norwegian’s work ethic.

“Yeah, really hard worker,” he explained. “Does it his own way. I think he’s found a really repeatable golf swing. He sort of aims it up the right side, brings it in over and hits that sort of flat cut down there. He’s one of the best drivers of the golf ball in the world. I think as we all know he’s improved around the greens this year.

“That’s been the difference from being a still a top-10 player in the world to what he’s done this year. Winning at Memorial, winning last week, having a chance at Oak Hill. So, yeah, look, hell of a player. He works incredibly hard. Nothing but respect for how he goes about his business. True professional. For someone that’s still so young, he’s got quite an old head on those shoulders.”

Having been distant second favourites to recapture the Ryder Cup in Rome for most of the intervening two years, Europe have narrowed the gap considerably and now three of the top four in the World Rankings will be wearing blue at Marco Simone.

“Yeah, I think we’re all excited,” McIlroy admitted. “There’s a lot of us that were in that team at Whistling Straights and that didn’t feel very nice, didn’t feel good. So, yeah, I’m excited to get back over to Europe. We’re all sort of making our way over to Europe a couple weeks early. So it will be nice to all get together, get some early team dinners before the week in Rome and sort of really feel like that sort of team chemistry is starting already.

“So, yeah, I think we’re all excited. We’re all, for the most part, playing really good. We’re, there’s still a few weeks to go, but, yeah, I mean it’s the next big thing in all of our calendars.”

At the last Ryder Cup, captain Pádraig Harrington reportedly asked each team member for a shortlist of who they’d like to play with and Hovland was a unanimous name across all responses, and McIlroy explained just exactly why the Norwegian would be such a popular partner.

“I think if anyone, if someone came along — if someone came along to any of us on the team and said we’re going to put you out with Viktor today I don’t think anyone would say no,” McIlroy said. “Just put it that way. Four-balls, foursomes. It’s Viktor, but it’s also Shay his caddie. They’re a great duo. Great to get along with. I really enjoyed my day with him on Sunday last week when he shot the lights out. So, yeah, the other 11 guys on the European team I don’t think would have an issue if they went out with Viktor.”

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