Rory McIlroy much prefers Europe’s Ryder Cup build-up to ‘well rested’ USA team

By Phil Casey, PA Golf Correspondent

Rory McIlroy believes Europe’s preparations for the Ryder Cup could give them an edge over a “well rested” American side.

All 12 members of Luke Donald’s team made the cut in the BMW PGA Championship last week and seven finished in the top 10, with Tyrrell Hatton second, Jon Rahm fourth, Viktor Hovland fifth and Tommy Fleetwood sixth.

McIlroy, who only made the weekend thanks to a birdie on the 18th in round two, carded closing scores of 67 and 65 to climb into a tie for seventh, with 54-hole leader Ludvig Aberg and Sepp Straka part of a tie for 10th.

In stark contrast, only three Americans will have played competitively since the end of August when they tee it up in Rome a month later, with Justin Thomas and Max Homa playing the Fortinet Championship and LIV Golf’s Brooks Koepka in action in Chicago.

“The Americans will certainly be well rested,” McIlroy said.

“I don’t think there’s any substitute for being sharp and playing tournaments. The only thing is it’s match play and not stroke play so it’s a little bit different, but I don’t think us playing a little bit more over these last few weeks is going to hurt us at all.

“If anything I would say it’s certainly better for me. I wouldn’t have liked to go into the Ryder Cup with my last start being the Tour Championship but that’s personal preference. I like to play my way into the big events.”

McIlroy felt Donald would have viewed the Wentworth leaderboard as “awesome” and was full of praise for the former world number one’s captaincy since succeeding Henrik Stenson after he was sacked for joining LIV Golf.

“I think he’s been fantastic,” the four-time major winner added. “He took the job in very weird circumstances I guess but he’s taken it in his stride and he’s been fantastic with me.

“I’m sure he’s had a lot more interaction with some of the rookies and the new guys that are on the team. I feel at this point I can take care of myself a little bit.

“If you speak to everyone we’ve all been really pleased with the job him and all of his team have done so far; the vice-captains are a big part of it and Ryder Cup Europe with all the backroom staff and everyone involved. It’s been great so far.”

McIlroy is the most experienced player on the European team and will be making his seventh Ryder Cup appearance in Rome, but Donald has made it clear where the Northern Irishman’s priorities will lie.

“Yeah, he doesn’t expect me to stand up there and make big speeches or say a lot of things,” said McIlroy, who was reduced to tears by winning just one point from four matches in the record defeat at Whistling Straits.

“But if I can lead by example and be the first one to the team room if there is a meeting, first one on the bus on the way to the course; anything like that where I’m still doing all the things that you should do and not getting complacent, that’s the way I would like to lead.

“And, as Luke said, lead with my clubs and making birdies and getting blue on the board.”