GUIDONIA MONTECELIO, Italy (AP) – For Rory McIlroy, it’s a definite “no.”
US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick is open to having LIV Golf players on the European squad for next year’s Ryder Cup because, as he said, ” I just want to make sure we win.
Europe captain Luke Donald, meanwhile, is toeing the official tour line when he says he is in “limbo” waiting for the dispute to be decided in court.
As many of Europe’s top players prepare to play this week’s Italian Open at the Marco Simone course outside Rome who will host the Ryder Cup next year, the pre-tournament discussion focused on who should and who shouldn’t be included in the 2023 squad.
“I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: I don’t think any of these guys should be on the Ryder Cup team,” McIlroy said Wednesday of the players who have joined the Saudi-backed breakaway series.
Litigation is ongoing on both sides of the Atlantic involving the PGA and European Tours after LIV golfers were barred from events, and the rift between players sticking to traditional tours and those who joined the lucrative series of breakaways is widening.
But Fitzpatrick, who won his first major title in June, takes a more neutral stance.
“I just want to win the Ryder Cup. … I want the best 11 guys we can have,” said the Englishman, who lost all three of their games as the United States broke a record in Whistling Straits, Wisconsin, last year. “I don’t really care where they’re coming from.”
Fitzpatrick even went so far as to reach out to a LIV player at the BMW PGA Championship in Wentworth last week.
“I told him I would love to have him on the team,” Fitzpatrick said, without naming the player.
Donald was named captain last month after Henrik Stenson was stripped of the title because he joined LIV.
“Nothing has really changed since I was appointed,” Donald said. “We are still a bit in limbo. We don’t know what’s going to happen with the trial, so I’m trying not to really put too much energy into it. Once we have a clearer picture, I can give you better answers.
While European Ryder Cup stalwarts Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter were among the contingent of LIV golfers competing at Wentworth, none of those high-profile names made it to Italy.
“I had already committed to playing in this event before Luke was captain and it was someone else,” McIlroy said, declining to mention Stenson by name again.
“I’ve had discussions with Luke and actually a few of us are getting together for dinner tonight for a bit of team bonding but also to talk about the course and how we think it should be put in place to favor the European team.”
Located half an hour’s drive from central Rome – with no traffic – the course owned and run by fashion designer Lavinia Biagiotti Cigna features rolling terrain that should lend itself to a stadium setting suitable for the Ryder Cup.
“You’ve got two driveable par 4s (Nos 11 and 16), you’ve got a few holes with water and you’ve got this beautiful closing hole that could be really exciting,” McIlroy said of the back nine.
The only time McIlroy has ever played in Italy was when he won the European Amateur Championship in 2006 in the northern town of Biella.
“So I have a 100% record in this country and I would like that to continue,” he said.
McIlroy enjoys walking around Rome with his family, especially since his wife once studied in the city for seven months “and she knows her way around.”
The main agenda for McIlroy and his teammates, however, is to strategize to close the gap to the USA’s 19-9 victory in Wisconsin.
“The European team has a core of six or seven guys who I think we all know are going to be in this team and then it’s up to some of the younger guys maybe stepping in,” McIlroy said. “I think we needed a rebuild anyway. We did well with the same guys for a very long time but everything stops at some point. I think Whistling Straits is a good kind of demarcation.
Donald is paired with rising Italian Guido Migliozzi and Adrian Meronk, the Polish player who won the Irish Open in July, for the first two rounds this week.
Then there is Nicolai Højgaardthe 21-year-old Dane who won at Marco Simone last year a week after his identical twin brother, Rasmus, won the European Masters in Switzerland.
Vice-captain Thomas Bjørn is part of a group with 24-year-old Norwegian Viktor Hovland, who is No. 11 in the world golf rankings.
“I’m excited to see their matches,” Donald said. “I will be keeping an eye out for some of the youngest and most exciting talent to try to make this team.”
Then there’s Francesco Molinari, the hero of Europe’s 2018 win, who is looking to return to the team after missing 2021 with back problems. He has just finished in the top 10 at Wentworth.
“Having an Italian in the squad would be huge,” McIlroy said.
Molinari said issues with LIV would take a back seat from September 29 to October 29. 1 event next year.
“The Ryder Cup is such a big, important and fantastic event that I don’t think it will be damaged by conflict at all,” Molinari said. “Even if the situation is not resolved, I think that this week everyone’s attention will be on the Ryder Cup.”
More AP Golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Andrew Dampf is at https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf