Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry believe the absence of high-profile LIV rebels from Europe’s Ryder Cup team allowed younger members to shine.
Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Sergio García – all icons for Europe in the biennial event – missed out on the 16½-11½ victory against the US in Italy after their switch to the Saudi Arabia-backed circuit. Ludvig Åberg, Nicolai Højgaard and Robert MacIntyre featured in the winning team as rookies with McIlroy among the more experienced members in the camp.
“They’ve had unbelievable Ryder Cup careers and they’ve made their choices,” McIlroy said of the LIV contingent. “They’ve done what they’ve done and no one can take away the impact that they’ve had for the European team over the years.
“But I feel like this week not having those big personalities in the team room let other guys have that chance to flourish and to shine: Viktor [Hovland], Jon [Rahm], myself; there wasn’t a ton of space taken up in that room by some of the other big personalities and that just let the rest of the team flourish. It’s 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.”
Luke Donald, the European team captain, revealed he had messages of congratulations from García, Westwood and Poulter after the trophy was reclaimed.
Lowry, who featured in his second Ryder Cup, endorsed McIlroy’s position. “Not having those guys there this week gave certain guys the opportunity to be something different in the team room,” the 2019 Open champion said. “And I think that made a big difference.
“We have had three of the top four players in the world in the team room this week. If those guys were in the team room, they are obviously big Ryder Cup legends and have been amazing, but maybe Jon, Rory and Viktor wouldn’t have been what they were this week.
“We have built the bones of an amazing future team here. Ludvig, Nicolai, Viktor. Rahmbo isn’t old, Rory is not old, Tommy [Fleetwood] is not old. Everyone is pretty young in the team room.”
Lowry revealed one of the secrets to Europe’s success: dad jokes. “Every night when we went back to our rooms we had a different one on our beds on a little Ryder Cup card,” the Irishman said.
Europe’s victory party, which was attended by most of the American team, included the placing of the real Ryder Cup alongside 12 replicas that had been on stands in the team hotel all week.
“These mornings are the hardest,” McIlroy said before departure from Rome. “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 they become family in a way. So we’re already making plans to all catch up in Dubai in a few weeks’ time. So it’s great. It’s all good.”