Rory McIlroy has taken a swipe at European LIV rebels by insisting Sergio García, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood will rue missing the Ryder Cup more than their absence will be felt by the European team in Rome.
García, Poulter and Westwood have been stalwarts for Europe in Ryder Cups. Henrik Stenson was originally named as the captain for this week’s staging of the tournament. That the quartet switched to the Saudi Arabian-backed LIV Tour triggered a breakdown in relationships with the European Tour Group, so none of them will take on playing or backroom responsibilities at Marco Simone. Stenson was basically sacked and replaced by Luke Donald.
McIlroy believes this Ryder Cup may bring a realisation to those rebels over what they have left behind. “It’s certainly a little strange not having them around,” said the 34-year-old. “But I think this week of all weeks it’s going to hit home with them they are not here. They are going to miss being here more than we’re missing them.
“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.”
As McIlroy alluded to, the peace deal agreed in principle between tours in Europe, the United States and Saudi’s Public Investment Fund does leave the door ajar for them returning to the Ryder Cup fold.
However, this is a European team in the midst of evolution. Justin Rose, its oldest member at 43, sees no reason for worry. “There’s a lot of winning culture still in the team,” Rose said. “With the people in and around the team, the captain, the vice-captains. Luke has got an incredible Ryder Cup record. The most winning from a percentage point of view. So the winning culture in our team is as strong as ever.
“Obviously Westy, Poults, as captains or vice-captains or however they may or may not be involved in the future, they do have a lot to offer, of course, from experiences and that point of view. But the more we can kind of blood the younger generation coming through, the quicker you’re going to kind of skip through that transition phase.”