(Photo credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)
Rory McIlroy admitted it's different to be at a Ryder Cup without the likes of Sergio Garcia or Ian Poulter in Europe's team room, but he remains confident the members of LIV Golf are the ones missing out.
The four-time major champion from Northern Ireland spoke to reporters at Marco Simone in Rome on Wednesday ahead of the start of the Ryder Cup. And after back-and-forth drama surrounding LIV dominated the golf world for the better part of two years, McIlroy was asked just one question about LIV players' absences from Team Europe.
"I mean, it's certainly a little strange not having them around," McIlroy said. "But I think this week of all weeks, it's going to hit home with them that, you know, they are not here, and I think they are going to miss being here more than we're missing them.
"And I'm not saying that that's like -- it's just more I think this week is a realization that the decision that they made has led to not being a part of this week, and that's tough. 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.
"I always thought leading up to this week is when it's going to hit home that they are not going to be here."
LIV members were not considered for Team Europe's 12 spots, and Swede Henrik Stenson was stripped of his captaincy when he joined the Saudi-funded league.
Only one LIV golfer, five-time major champion Brooks Koepka, made the U.S. Team.
The 2023 Ryder Cup could represent a changing of the guard for Team Europe. For the first time since 1995, the roster does not include at least one of the following: Spain's Garcia, Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell or Englishmen Poulter or Lee Westwood. Garcia is the winningest player in Ryder Cup history and Poulter also is known as a match-play specialist.
McDowell said this week he has no hard feelings and is rooting for Europe to win back the Cup.
"I love the Ryder Cup," McDowell told Golf Digest. "It is special to me. And it always will be. I'm very much trying to put the small bit of bitterness I feel to the side. It's not bitterness towards anyone. It's bitterness that I am not part of the ecosystem. But I'm trying not to let that get in the way of what my true feelings are."
As for McIlroy, he will compete in his seventh Ryder Cup, 14 years after rankling some golf fans by saying it was an exhibition he did not have strong feelings about winning.
"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 until you make one, and then you never want to be off one again," McIlroy said.
"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. I'm still very, very proud and probably proudest of the things I've done as an individual, but nothing -- nothing beats this week."
--Field Level Media