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Rory McIlroy is now “at the front of the Ludvig Aberg bandwagon” after an exciting first meeting with the Swedish prodigy on Europe’s Ryder Cup scouting mission.

Luke Donald took all 12 members of his team to Marco Simone for a bonding session ahead of the BMW PGA Championship – and McIlroy, like Shane Lowry 24 hours before him, described the trip as “amazing” while also expressing his surprise that “it’s the first time we’ve ever done it”.

“Not that I need to get anymore excited about an upcoming Ryder Cup, but that trip definitely got the juices flowing,” the World No 2 told reporters at Wentworth.

But it was Aberg – a surprise captain’s pick after a meteoric rise to fame having only turned pro in June – who really left a mark on McIlroy.

When asked if the 25-year-old lived up to his expectations, McIlroy replied: “He exceeded them.”

He added: “There’s a few new faces on the team and I thought it was a great exercise in terms of getting to know one another a little bit better. I had an opportunity to play with Ludvig for the first time on Monday, which I was excited about.

“I told him, ‘I’ve been looking forward to this for a while.’ Everyone talks about what a great driver of the golf ball he is, which he is, [and] the ball-striking is incredible, but I was really impressed with his wedge play and how he can control his trajectory with shorter clubs.

“I was on the bandwagon before. Certainly at the front of it now. Anyone who watches him play golf can see the potential and kind of talent that he has.”

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With the likes of Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter no longer in the picture, many have been concerned about the so-called “transitional period” for the European team – but it isn’t keeping McIlroy up at night.

“It is a transitional time for the European Ryder Cup team,” he confirmed.

“There are guys that have been amazing Ryder Cuppers for two decades, and unfortunately things move on and you need to bring in some fresh talent. We certainly have that this year in terms of someone like Sepp [Straka] who came on the scene the last couple years and has played some great golf. It’s exciting.

“I think the thing which has been refreshing [is it] felt like the 12 of us are on the same level. There’s no type of hierarchy on the team. I remember the 2012 Ryder Cup, I went in there, number one player in the world, I had won two majors in the last two years, and I still didn’t feel like I could speak up in the team room. This doesn’t feel like that, which I think is really good. Just making the new guys as comfortable as possible.

“I don’t think any of these guys need their hand held in any way. I’d rather them look across to me than look up at me, if that makes sense. That’s the way I’d hope they see me in that way. We are all part of a 12-man team and we are all trying to do our bit, and certainly no one is more important than anyone else.”

McIlroy again drew on his previous experience.

“When I came on to the Ryder Cup team in 2010, the veterans were really good with me, whether it be Westy or Poults or Luke or whoever it was that was at the top of the world rankings at that time, it’s hard not to have that sense of looking up at someone and feeling like, ‘Stay quiet, do what you’re told.’

“But [we’re] trying to make a conscious effort among the vice-captains, captain, and the veteran guys on the team of being inclusive and making sure the younger guys and the rookies are involved in everything that we do.

“To me, that’s a really cool thing about the last couple days.”

Aberg was asked later about his day in Rome with McIlroy.

“Obviously his resume speaks for itself and what he’s done and did for the game is quite incredible, and to watch that first-hand was pretty cool,” the Swede said, before revealing that he and Viktor Hovland played a match against McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood. “We winded up winning on the 16th hole,” he said. “It was fun.”

Listen to our thoughts on Ludvig Aberg and the European team’s Ryder Cup chances in the latest episode of The bunkered Podcast.


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Ben Parsons joined bunkered as a Content Producer in 2023 and is the man to come to for all of the latest news, across both the professional and amateur games. Formerly of The Mirror and Press Association, he is a member at Halifax Golf Club and is a long-suffering fan of both Manchester United and the Wales rugby team.

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