Rory McIlroy may not be the oldest nor the most experienced Ryder Cup player on Team Europe this week at Whistling Straits, but the star from Northern Ireland sees himself as part of the Europeans’ group of leaders heading into the biennial team event.
“Yeah, I think I’ve already tried to evolve into that role,” McIlroy told reporters Tuesday. “This being my sixth Ryder Cup, 2014 I felt like was the year that I embraced the role of being a leader, and then going on from then.”
The four-time major champion has played for every European Ryder Cup side since his event debut in 2010. Team Europe has won four of those five matches.
This year’s team is not short on experience, either. Englishman Lee Westwood, 48, is set to play in his 11th Ryder Cup, tying Nick Faldo’s European record. Spain’s Sergio Garcia, 41, is entering his 10th Cup.
“I think that’s one of the great things about the European team. It’s not as if we’re just looking to one guy,” said McIlroy, 32. “There’s a collection of very experienced players there that some of the younger guys and the rookies can look at. And then you look at our vice captains, as well, and you look at all the pivotal roles they’ve played in Ryder Cups over the years. We have no shortage of leaders on our team.”
Just two Europeans are ranked higher in the Official World Golf Ranking than McIlroy at No. 15: Jon Rahm of Spain, the U.S. Open champion and world No. 1, and Viktor Hovland of Norway at No. 14.
Hovland, a two-time PGA Tour winner who tied for fifth at the Tour Championship earlier this month, is making his Ryder Cup debut at age 24. McIlroy, who was 20 when he first competed for Team Europe at Celtic Manor Resort in Wales, has high hopes for Hovland.
“I think the thing that I’d say to any rookie is the reason you’re on this team is because of the golf that got you here,” McIlroy said. “I mean, for Viktor I’d just tell him to be himself. He’s one of the best players in the world. He’s already been a wonderful teammate, and the energy and enthusiasm that he brings into our team.
“For Viktor, I’d just get out on the golf course, be himself, play his game, and that’s more than good enough to win points for the European team.”
–Field Level Media