After studying his Ryder Cup teammates on YouTube, rookie Viktor Hovland hints at pairing Rory McIlroy

HAVEN, Wisconsin – It’s a sign of the vast experience that Europe brings to Whistling Straits that the first Ryder Cup Viktor Hovland remembers watching on TV was the eighth Lee Westwood played, with Westwood making his debut in the event when Hovland was just eight years old. days old.

The Norwegian rookie turned 24 last weekend. He was 15 when he watched the memorable return of Europe just 130 miles south of here in 2012. “The first Ryder Cup that I actually watched until the end was basically in Medinah. I wasn’t too young, but I remember a lot of those last putts on the home stretch very well, ”he said. “I was sitting there watching with my dad, and I remember going crazy.”

For more perspective: Medinah was the sixth team appearance for Sergio Garcia and the fourth for Ian Poulter, now in their tenth and seventh teams respectively. Westwood makes his eleventh start as the Old World tries to hold onto the Cup and clinches their 10th victory in the last 13 stages. It’s a long and successful story that Hovland has studied in the most modern way possible: YouTube.

“Obviously, time and time again, when they show up this week, they deliver every time. I sat down a few weeks ago and just watched Poults, Sergio and Westy’s highlights on YouTube from the Ryder Cup, ”he said. “It was so cool to see all the clutch moments they had and how they handled it all, because it’s a big pressure. Just to see how they run their business and handle it all.

This week in Wisconsin, Hovland is getting closer to that living history. “It’s cool to be backstage with them when there are no cameras and they’re not playing golf to see why they got to do all of these things,” he said with a palpable feeling of dread.

On Tuesday morning, Hovland was part of a practice quartet with Westwood, Garcia and Rory McIlroy, a group that could hint at the intentions of European captain Padraig Harrington in Friday morning’s opening session. Westwood and Garcia have formed a formidable Ryder Cup partnership for nearly 20 years, leaving the tempting prospect of a Hovland-McIlroy duo.

“I think we have a lot of the same strengths and the same kind of personality that we think of a lot the same,” Hovland said of the prospect. Still, he remained timid as to whether that will happen.

“Like we all do, we say who we want to play with, and then we use these days to determine, OK, is that a good fit or not, do we work together, and then we sort of go from there. Other than that, I don’t really know, ”he said.

Members of the European Ryder Cup team react during a team photo ahead of the 43rd Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits on September 21, 2021 in Kohler, Wisconsin. (Photo by Patrick Smith / Getty Images)

Last week, Harrington said some guys would tell him who they could fit in best with – or not – but that he had 11 guys who wanted to play with Hovland, a remarkable testament to the kind reputation he enjoys. A partnership with McIlroy would be one that Hovland has long sought. Several years ago, he asked McIlroy if they could team up with the Zurich Classic, the only team event on the PGA Tour. McIlroy said he would be ready to play together, but the event was not on his schedule. The pair appear to have similar easy-going dispositions (Hovland’s permanent smile even jokingly saw him called “Stoned Rory”).

McIlroy said on Tuesday that he would be happy to be able to guide Hovland through the cauldron of his first Ryder Cup game. “The thing I would say to any rookie is that the reason you’re on this team is because of the golf that brought you here. For Viktor, I would just tell him to be himself, ”McIlroy said. “He’s one of the best players in the world. He’s been a wonderful teammate before, and the energy and enthusiasm he brings to our team.

Being part of that team involves gentle hazing, something the world No.14 was not spared. The group-team chat started last week and Hovland came in for some good-humored ribs. But what softens him in the squad room is also designed to support him for what’s going on on the course, with the camaraderie acting like armor against a gallery sharply tilted towards American fans.

“I would like to think I have fans who maybe aren’t necessarily going to boo at us, but if they end up doing that, that’s what they’re going to do,” Hovland said. “We’re still going to play golf, and if they end up doing it, that means we’re doing something right. I’m not going to take anything too personally. I can take a punch in the face. I’ve definitely had my beating so far in the band’s text. I think I’m ready for a few screams here and there.

The group chat was smooth, with unflattering old photos being released for fun, ensuring the youngest recruit is brought closer to the hearts of a veteran squad. “It’s a good joke,” Hovland said. “And again, just get closer.”

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