European Ryder Cup star Rory McIlroy has tipped the youthful team that lost its grip on the trophy at Hazeltine to blossom when the competition resumes in France in 2018.
A side featuring six rookies lost 17-11 to the United States on Sunday, with three of those – Danny Willett, Matt Fitzpatrick and Andy Sullivan – failing to register a point in Minnesota.
Fellow debutants Thomas Pieters, who won four points from a possible five, and Rafael Cabrera Bello, who took two and a half from three, were among the best performers on either team, however.
McIlroy, who bagged three points from five, all of which came alongside the outstanding Pieters, believes that bodes well for Europe’s hopes of regaining the Ryder Cup in two years’ time.
“It’s a transitional team, it goes in cycles. It is the first time with this many rookies since 2010 and you will see a lot of these rookies come back and play again next time,” he said.
“I know the rookies didn’t have the greatest first Ryder Cup but at the same time they will have learned a lot from it and a lot of them will play in Paris.
Pieters impresses McIlroy
Pieters, 24, won over Darren Clarke with his late-summer form to beat Scot Russell Knox to a captain’s pick and over the weekend added McIlroy to his rapidly expanding fan club.
“I’ve not played that much with him before and we went out as a pairing and played unbelievably in the [Friday] fourballs and then Darren put us out in the foursomes,” the Northern Irishman added.
“He is the best partner you could have. It seemed so natural to him and he is such a laid-back guy. Like [fellow Belgian] Nicolas Colsaerts four years ago but younger and – no offence to Nicolas – with a lot more talent.”
Willett hits back at USA fans
Masters winner Willett, meanwhile, described his first Ryder Cup experience as “shit” but appeared to belatedly endorse his brother’s depiction of US fans as “imbeciles”.
Very strange week here at the Ryder cup.. Tried my best but played poorly.. Unfortunately some american fans showed that @P_J_Willett was..— Danny Willett (@Danny_Willett) October 3, 2016
.. In fact correct.. Nothing to blame my bad play on.. But still shows that sometimes fans don't know when to call it a day.. Shame really!!— Danny Willett (@Danny_Willett) October 3, 2016
Willett apologised for the remarks, made in a magazine article, before the competition yet was given a hostile reception by some spectators and yesterday hit back on social media.
He wrote: “Very strange week here at the Ryder Cup. Tried my best but played poorly. Unfortunately some American fans showed that [his brother] was in fact correct. Nothing to blame my bad play on. But still shows that sometimes fans don’t know when to call it a day. Shame really!”