Rory McIlroy said the task will be tougher than many believe for the United States to prevail this fall at the Ryder Cup, despite a convincing American victory in 2016 and a strong cast of young stars.
"It won't be as easy as they think it's going to be,'' McIlroy said Tuesday in Abu Dhabi in advance of this week's European Tour event, where he will make his 2018 debut.
"The Americans are very strong,'' said McIlroy, who is from Northern Ireland and has played in four Ryder Cups for Europe starting in 2010. "For the first time they have a real cohesion. The younger guys get along great. Jordan [Spieth], JT [Justin Thomas], Rickie [Fowler], Brooks [Koepka], Patrick Reed, Daniel Berger. They all get on really, really well. There's a great core group of players there, young players that will be around for a long time.''
But McIlroy pointed out that it's never quite so clear cut at the Ryder Cup. As convincing as the Americans' 17-11 victory was at Hazeltine in 2016, it came on a course that favored the U.S. and with the backing of the home crowd.
The Americans have not won a Ryder Cup in Europe since 1993. This year's event will be played outside of Paris at Le Golf National, the site of an annual European Tour event.
"Look at Hazeltine last time and how they set that golf course up: big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens,'' McIlroy said. "It wasn't set up for the way the Europeans like to play. I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish.
"The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it is never as easy as that, even when Europe was winning six of eight or five of seven, whatever it was. Yes, Europe won and it looked dominant for a while, but the matches were always closer than that.
"The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. We'll have a great time and it definitely won't be as easy as they think it's going to be.''
McIlroy, 28, has never had a losing record at any of the four Ryder Cups in which he has competed, and is 9-6-4 overall in 19 matches.
Since the U.S. won at The Belfry in 1993, the Americans have gone 3-8 in 11 Ryder Cups.