ROME: Rory McIlroy on Wednesday said European stalwarts absent from this week’s Ryder Cup in Rome after joining LIV Golf will be “missing being here more than we’re missing them”. McIlroy is the most experienced player on either team as he prepares for the start of his seventh Ryder Cup on Friday. The event will be the first without any of Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia or Ian Poulter lining up for Europe since 1995 after the trio signed with Saudi-backed LIV and resigned from the European Tour. “It’s certainly a little strange not having them around,” McIlroy, who has been an ever-present at the Ryder Cup since making his debut in 2010, told reporters.

“But I think this week of all weeks, it’s going to hit home with them that, they are not here, and I think they are going to miss being here more than we’re missing them.” McIlroy was a vocal critic of LIV when the rebel circuit was first launched, but has commented less on the rift since a financial merger with the PGA and European tours was announced earlier this year. “It’s just more I think this week is a realisation that the decision that they made has led to not being a part of this week, and that’s tough,” the Northern Irishman clarified. “The landscape in golf is ever-changing and more dynamic, and we’ll see what happens and whether they will be part of it in the future.”

McIlroy is the third-oldest player in Luke Donald’s European team, which includes four rookies, a far cry from when he first played as a 21-year-old at Celtic Manor. He was widely criticised for comments made in 2009 calling the Ryder Cup “an exhibition” and “not that important”. The four-time major champion read out those quotes in a social media video released by the European team earlier this week, jokingly asking “who said that?”. “I think in 2009, I was just so focused on myself and trying to get my career off the ground that I felt like I had sort of bigger and better things to achieve for my individual goals and stuff like that, that I just didn’t put any emphasis on making a Ryder Cup team,” he said.

“Until you make one, and then you never want to be off one again. “I think that’s sort of the crux of it. So I love being a part of this team. My most enjoyable moments in my career have been being a part of European Ryder Cup teams.” The new-look European side will be trying to wrestle back the trophy from the United States following a record 19-9 defeat at Whistling Straits in 2021. Justin Rose, who missed out on selection two years ago, is the elder statesman this time around at 43. “You start to get the rookies off to a good start this year at home, and suddenly you start to blood some of the future with positive experiences,” said former world number one Rose.  – AFP