Wednesday 25 April 2018

Rory McIlroy thinks rookies will be stronger for Hazeltine experience

Rory McIlroy has high hopes for Europe's rookies at the next Ryder Cup
Rory McIlroy has high hopes for Europe's rookies at the next Ryder Cup

World number three Rory McIlroy believes Europe's Ryder Cup team is in transition but is confident the new breed will come good in two years' time.

Belgian rookie Thomas Pieters produced the best individual display on any side in the 17-11 defeat at Hazeltine with four points in five matches and Rafa Cabrera Bello picked up two and a half from three - but the rest of the team did not fare as well.

Chris Wood got one point but his fellow English rookies Matt Fitzpatrick, at 22 the youngest player at Hazeltine, Andy Sullivan and Masters champion Danny Willett failed to land any.

At the other end of the scale Lee Westwood, playing in his 10th Ryder Cup, disappointingly did not register in three matches while Martin Kaymer, in his fourth, contributed one point in four.

"Definitely, it's a transitional team, it goes in cycles," said McIlroy, who notched up three points in five games and was involved in an epic final-day duel with Patrick Reed before losing out on the 18th hole.

"It is the first time with this many rookies since 2010 (when they won by a point at Celtic Manor) and you will see a lot of these rookies come back and play again next time.

"I know the rookies didn't have the greatest first Ryder Cup but at the same time they will have learned a lot from it and a lot of them will play in Paris in two years' time."

McIlroy enjoyed being paired with Pieters, who he claimed wanted to be his partner for the "next 20 years" after winning all three points with the big-hitting Belgian.

The 24-year-old was one of captain Darren Clarke's wildcard picks after finishing fourth in the Olympics, second at the Czech Masters and first at the Made in Denmark - the three events leading up to selection.

McIlroy admitted he knew little about the Belgian before the Ryder Cup but predicted a bright future.

"I am excited. He was a pick by Darren and he showed this week just how good he is, showed me how good he is," he added.

"I've not played that much with him before and we went out as a pairing and played unbelievably in the fourballs and then Darren put us out in the foursomes.

"He is the best partner you could have. It seemed so natural to him and he is such a laid-back guy. Like (a fellow Belgian debutant) Nicolas Colsaerts four years ago but younger and, no offence to Nicolas, with a lot more talent."

Half a team of rookies created issues for Clarke when it came to his pairings and McIlroy admitted it placed a greater burden on the more e xperienced players.

"I felt responsibility a few months ago when the team was shaping up and it looked like there was going to be a few first-timers," said the Northern Irishman, who came into the event in good form having won the Tour Championship and the £8million bonus from claiming the FedEx Cup.

"This week, having done what I've done in the game, especially the last few weeks and how I've been playing, I tried to lead by example.

"I tried my utmost to do that and I won three points but I wish I could have contributed more. I did as much as I could."

While many of the players will still be around to go to Le Golf National in 2018 the task of finding a new captain will begin over the next couple of months.

"It depends who feels like they are ready for it," he said.

"You've got someone like a Lee Westwood, Thomas Bjorn or Padraig (Harrington) obviously - but that would be three Irish captains in a row and I don't know how that would feel.

"The culture of the European Tour is to include everyone in the team and because we have so much support around us while we obviously need a captain it could be any one of a number of guys."

Press Association

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