Despite how things may look on paper, it’s hard not to think of the Americans as underdogs as they head to Rome to try to retain the Ryder Cup at the end of the month.
Why? Despite the fact that the U.S. team won in dominant fashion at the last Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in 2021, the Americans haven’t won on European soil for 30 years, when they claimed a narrow 15-13 victory at the Belfry in 1993.
One player who is well aware of the task ahead is European stalwart Rory McIlroy, who appeared on this week’s episode of GOLF’s Subpar to discuss a number of topics, with the Ryder Cup being a primary focus right off the bat.
“I think the American team have really turned a corner the last few years. I think the cadence of them playing Presidents Cup, Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup, Ryder Cup, they’ve got a really good continuity at the minute,” McIlroy told hosts Colt Knost and Drew Stoltz. “But they haven’t won in Europe in 30 years. So, the odds are — they’re still the favorites if you look at the bookies, but at the same time, I’m feeling good about our team. I’m feeling much better about our team than I was maybe, say, eight months ago. So I think we’re in a really good spot.”
And while the European roster is strong, McIlroy noted that this year, his seventh Ryder Cup, will mark the first time he competes without the guidance and camaraderie of Euro veterans Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell, all of whom left the DP World Tour for LIV.
“It’s a bit of a transition for us,” he said.
Winning abroad is a tough task for both the Americans and the Europeans. It’s been nine years since Team Europe triumphed at Medinah, and McIlroy is hoping to utilize the home turf in Rome to Europe’s advantage.
“I think you have a home course advantage for a reason,” McIlroy said. “I’ve felt this for a while now, but I think one of the biggest accomplishments in the game right now is a team winning an away Ryder Cup. It hasn’t happened since 2012, and I just think you’re gonna see this pattern of, the teams are gonna do everything they can to set themselves up for success. So if you look at what the Europeans do well compared to what the Americans do well, and these things are so analytics-driven.”
The key to a European victory, McIlroy said, will be to limit the American advantage in one specific area.
“For the most part, we drive the ball great: if you look at Rahmbo, myself, Viktor, you put Ludvig in there. If you break it down in terms of the parts of the game, we want to get wedges and short irons out of the Americans’ hands,” McIlroy said. “We know that that’s what they’re really good at. So if we make this a driving and sort of mid-iron to long-iron and putting contest, we feel like that’s where we have the best opportunity to win.”
The Ryder Cup in Rome kicks off on Sept. 29. You can hear more from McIlroy, including his thoughts on Justin Thomas as a captain’s pick, the match-play opponent he “despised” and a Michael Block story from the PGA Championship. Check out the full episode below.