Absence of LIV rebels allowed Europe to 'flourish', insists McIlroy

Absence of LIV rebels allowed Europe to ‘flourish’ at the Ryder Cup, insists Rory McIlroy… as the world No 2 hails a ‘new era’ following impressive victory over US

  •  Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland had to step up in place of cup legends
  •  The trio contributed 10.5 of Europe’s 16.5-point total against the US in Rome
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Rory McIlroy believes the absence of LIV rebels in the European side allowed him to ‘flourish’ during the Ryder Cup win over the US.

McIlroy top-scored in Rome with four points as Luke Donald’s team moved on from the era of Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter by reclaiming the trophy. In the place of those Cup legends, McIlroy admitted Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland and himself felt emboldened to step up. Between them, they contributed 10.5 of Europe’s 16.5-point total.

He said: ‘They’ve had unbelievable Ryder Cup careers and they’ve made their choices. No one can take away the impact that they’ve had for Europe over the years.

‘But this week, not having those big personalities in the team room let other guys have that chance to flourish, to shine: Viktor, Jon, myself. There wasn’t a ton of space taken up in that room by some of the other big personalities. We’re a young team.

‘We can all grow together. I could potentially be the oldest person on the team next time. It’s a new era. And it’s a pretty good one.’

Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland had to step up in place of Ryder Cup legends

Luke Donald’s team moved on from era of Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter by lifting the trophy

McIlroy’s view was shared by Shane Lowry. Speaking the morning after celebrations that ran beyond 4am at their team base in Rome, Lowry said: ‘Not having those guys gave certain guys the opportunity to be something different in the team room. That made a difference. We had three of the top four players this week. If those big Ryder Cup legends were in the team, maybe Jon, Rory and Viktor wouldn’t have been what they were this week.’

Meanwhile, Donald has left the door open to staying on as Europe’s Ryder Cup captain —and the job would be his if he wants it. Donald was serenaded with chants of ‘two more years’ by his players after the win. The appetite is shared by the senior hierarchy of European golf.

Europe has not had a repeat leader since Bernard Gallacher between 1991 and 1995, but given the rave reviews for Donald, and the challenge of retaining the Cup in fiery New York in 2025, where Tiger Woods is tipped to captain the US, Donald is a natural choice.

‘I’ll obviously consider it,’ said Donald. ‘I want to enjoy right now. It’s not an easy job. It took a lot of time and effort. I could walk away, we won and that’s my legacy. But to win in America is special. It’s an extra feather in the cap if you can win away.’

Donald also said he was opposed to players being paid to compete in the Cup. ‘I’m against it. This is the purest form of our sport,’ he said. ‘It’s not about that. It’s about what true sport means. The reward is being together, sharing that journey, making history.’

It was around 4am when Donald got to bed yesterday morning. ‘Head doesn’t feel great,’ he told a few of us at the hill-top hotel.

Luke Donald’s (middle) men clinched a 16.5-11.5 victory against Zach Johnson’s side on Monday

The party was in the hotel’s vast function area where Europe’s team headed a little after 9pm. Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood were wearing Ryder Cup pyjamas and the trophy was filled and passed around. Champagne, mostly, occasionally beer. Most of the Americans joined them, though Patrick Cantlay nipped away early because he was getting married yesterday. Hatton was the last man standing.

Come the morning, McIlroy’s voice had almost gone. ‘Everyone saw videos of the sing-song we were having on the bus,’ he said. ‘It’s just so nice. It’s these mornings that are the hardest. You’re having to say goodbye to people, you’re not going to see them in a while. It’s only a week, but they feel like family in a way. So we’re already making plans to catch up in Dubai in a few weeks’ time.’

Lowry added: ‘The bus was the best part. Bobby Mac (MacIntyre) was on fire. It is amazing to be around friends and enjoy it with them. I feel like this week, this tournament, it is why I do my job.’

Donald’s approach extended to ‘dad jokes’ being left on the pillows of his players each night. McIlroy shared one: ‘It goes, “If you’re an American in the living room, what are you in the bathroom? European”. That’s a proper dad joke.’


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