McGinley sees experienced rookies purring at Ryder Cup

Britain's Danny Willett, who won the Masters and is seen here playing in the Rio Olympics where he was tied for 37th, is one of six debutants in the European Ryder Cup squad.
Britain's Danny Willett, who won the Masters and is seen here playing in the Rio Olympics where he was tied for 37th, is one of six debutants in the European Ryder Cup squad.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Former European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley expects the six rookies in this year's team to draw on their international golfing experience to thrive under pressure in next week's match against the United States.

US Masters champion Danny Willett, Chris Wood, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Andy Sullivan and Matt Fitzpatrick, along with wildcard pick Thomas Pieters, will be making their Ryder Cup debuts when Europe defend the trophy in Minnesota.

Willett proved his mettle on the big stage when he made his major breakthrough at Augusta in April, while Wood carved his way through a strong field on the final day of the BMW PGA Championship to win the European Tour's flagship event at Wentworth.

Pieters also impressed under pressure when he fired a stunning 62 while playing with Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke at the Made In Denmark tournament, and he went on to birdie the final three holes to win the title and earn his place for Hazeltine.

"The European team have six rookies heading to Hazeltine, but I don't think that will be an issue or a concern," McGinley, who led Europe to victory two years ago, told Sky Sports. "They are all experienced players, they've all won big tournaments, and they have all performed on the big stage... They are young, vibrant and they will not be intimidated by the atmosphere of a Ryder Cup in the United States."

Clarke will be looking to guide Europe to an unprecedented fourth consecutive Ryder Cup victory.

"They are part of a team and Darren will be making sure they don't lose their focus," McGinley said. "Don't play the occasion, play the game of golf."

World No. 3 Rory McIlroy has had an inconsistent year but McGinley said the Northern Irishman's win at this month's Deutsche Bank Championship was a big boost for the European team.

"He (McIlroy) is Europe's highest-ranked player and we all know how talented he is. Apart from winning the Irish Open, he's had a quiet year particularly on the PGA Tour and in the Major championships," the 49-year-old said.

"But he addressed the problems he was having with his putting, hired a new coach and that was validated with his win in Boston.

"It has given him a lot of confidence and I think we'll see a buoyant and energised Rory McIlroy at the Ryder Cup."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2016, with the headline 'McGinley sees experienced rookies purring at Ryder Cup'. Print Edition | Subscribe