Rónán MacNamara in Rome
Rory McIlroy admits the absence of some European LIV players feels strange and that the decision of Sergio Garcia and co to join the Saudi backed tour ultimately cost them their place on Luke Donald’s team.
Donald opted not to select any European players from LIV Golf meaning his side arrived in Marco Simone without experienced campaigners Garcia, Lee Westwood, Paul Casey, Henrik Stenson and Graeme McDowell. McIlroy feels they will miss the team more than the team miss them.
“It’s certainly a little strange not having them around,” said McIlroy ahead of his seventh Ryder Cup having made a winning debut in 2010 in Celtic Manor.
“I think this week of all weeks, it’s going to hit home with them that, you know, they are not here, and I think they are going to miss being here more than we’re missing them. I think this week is a realisation that the decision that they made has led to not being a part of this week, and that’s tough. The landscape in golf is ever-changing and more dynamic, and we’ll see what happens and whether they will be part of it in the future.
“I always thought leading up to this week is when it’s going to hit home that they are not going to be here.”
Earlier this week Pádraig Harrington revealed his fears over some vile fan abuse towards players and their families. Although this is mainly subjected to American Ryder Cups, Europeans are not exempt from dishing out some verbal assaults.
“I think that’s all part of the Ryder Cup,” grinned McIlroy. “There’s not a lot of other instances in the game of golf where that happens but there’s certainly a line. Most fans that come out to watch golf are very respectful and they know what that line is.
“No, I have no issues about that. Yeah, we have all had our fair share of heckles over the years and whatever, and that’s the a part of it. Someone said to me once, if you want to be part of the circus, you have to put up with the clowns!”
The four-time major champion’s Ryder Cup exhibition comments from 2009 resurfaced in a pre-Ryder Cup video and he insists those naive comments turned to rubbish when he made his debut in 2010 and now he relishes his leadership role in the team.
“No, it was definitely that first Ryder Cup. It was probably very early in the week at Celtic Manor. I took a bit of grief for those comments, and rightfully so.
“But I remember in 2010 in one of the practise rounds, I still had the sort of long, curly hair at that point and a few of the guys on the team came down to the first tee with wigs on and like sort of made a joke of it. Yeah, that meant a lot to me.
“I think just early in that week, and look, I said it in that little video piece I did earlier in the week. It’s not as if I didn’t play team golf before or knew what it was about.
“I think in 2009, I was just so focused on myself and trying to get my career off the ground that I felt like I had sort of bigger and better things to achieve for my individual goals and stuff like that that I just didn’t put any emphasis on making a Ryder Cup Team until you make one, and then you never want to be off one again.
“I think that’s sort of the crux of it. So I love being a part of this team. My most enjoyable moments in my career have been being a part of European Ryder Cup teams. I’m still very, very proud and probably proudest of the things I’ve done as an individual, but nothing — nothing beats this week. It’s an amazing experience and I want to be a part of it for as long as I can.”