Ryder Cup rookies in for a treat
Rory McIlroy reckons the five confirmed European Team Ryder Cup rookies will be in for a "rude awakening" when they get to Hazeltine later next month for the Ryder Cup.
It's not that the rookies will have anything to fear in tackling the host course in Minnesota, McIlroy says.
The big concern, according to McIlroy, will be dealing and coping with the overwhelmingly partisan American crowds each day of the three-day biennial showdown.
And while Darren Clarke hailed his Hazeltine top-nine automatic qualifiers as a "fantastic blend of youth and experience," McIlroy agreed.
Clarke's team included two current Major winners in Masters champion Danny Willett and Royal Troon winning hero Henrik Stenson.
However, Clarke's side does boast five rookies headed by Willett along with fellow Englishman Chris Wood, Danny Sullivan and Matt Fitzpatrick plus Spain's very in-form Rafa Cabrera-Bello.
"I am absolutely delighted with the nine players who have qualified," said Clarke.
"They offer not only a fantastic blend of youth and experience but also some exciting partnership possibilities."
That is why McIlroy, who is returning to competition at this week's Barclays Championship at Bethpage Park on New York's Long Island, could not agree more with his fellow Ulsterman.
"I have to agree with Darren totally that the nine who have qualified is a great mix of experience and youth," he said.
"It's great we have four experienced guys in Sergio, Justin, Henrik and myself.
"Then with his three 'wildcard' pics, Darren is going to need to pick at least two of those who have plenty of experience.
"So the onus will be on the likes of me and the others in the team to let the rookies know what to expect before and when we get to Hazeltine.
"The rookies may be playing on the PGA Tour but they're in for a rude awakening when it comes to playing in a Ryder Cup in the States as it will be tough as the whole crowd can be against you and you don't really get much reaction from them."
While McIlroy will be making his fourth straight appearance, he revealed it wasn't until the 2014 Gleneagles Ryder Cup he felt comfortable in the European Team colours.
"Gleneagles was the first time I felt comfortable at a Ryder Cup and getting a good feel as to what to expect," he said.
"So now that this will be my fourth Ryder Cup, I guess there will be a bigger onus on me when it comes to on-course responsibility.
"But even though we are heading to Hazeltine to win four in a row, I still feel we are the underdogs as they are playing home, and they have a young and hungry team that really want to win," he said.
"There is many among their top-eight qualifiers at present who have not experienced what it is like to win a Ryder Cup."
Clarke still has three wildcard picks to announce next Tuesday, with all likelihood that they will come from either Scotland's Russell Knox along with Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer or the Irish pair of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry.
Lowry will put all his hopeful Hazeltine eggs into this week's Made in Denmark event while McDowell, who has virtually written off making a fifth straight European Team, will be teeing up in the Barclays Championship and the opening event of the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Rival USA captain Davis Love will announce three of his four captain's picks September 12 and save his fourth and final pick for September 25th.