McIlroy — who had a dinner date with Europe Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald in Rome last night — is playing in today’s opening round of the Italian Open for the first time in his professional career, in order to check out the layout for next year’s match.
And in his chat with Donald, not only was the course set-up on the agenda — and unashamedly how to “trick up” the Marco Simone Country Club to favour the hosts — but also the growth of the youngsters whom McIlroy believes are vital for Europe in the future. He suggested that the LIV exodus of Europe’s golden oldies could be a positive.
“We were in need of a rebuild anyway,” he said. “We did well with the same guys for a very long time, but everything comes to an end. I think Whistling Straits was a good sort of demarcation to say, ‘That’s all behind us’. Luke’s got his thoughts and ideas and plans, and I think it is the right time to start to look towards the future.
“We’ve got a core group of guys, but let’s build on that again and instead of filling those three or four spots with veterans, let’s blood some rookies.”
That ‘core group’ presumably comprises McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland, Matt Fitzpatrick, Shane Lowry, Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood, while Thomas Pieters, a record-breaking debutant in 2016 but who has not appeared again since, could also be included.
McIlroy was also delighted to see Francesco Molinari come back to form last week with a top-10 finish at Wentworth. “Having an Italian in the team would be huge,” said McIlroy, who played with Molinari in the final round at the PGA Championship.