Europe's Ryder Cup stars set out in 2024 thousands of miles apart

Bob MacIntyre talks with caddie Mike Burrows during a practice round prior to the Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. Picture: Michael Reaves/Getty Images.Bob MacIntyre talks with caddie Mike Burrows during a practice round prior to the Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. Picture: Michael Reaves/Getty Images.
Bob MacIntyre talks with caddie Mike Burrows during a practice round prior to the Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. Picture: Michael Reaves/Getty Images.
Group teeing up in Hawaii as others play in first leg of Dubai double-header

They may have been all on the same page at Marco Simone Golf Club in Rome last autumn but there’s no sign of herd mentality this week as far as Europe’s winning Ryder Cup players are concerned.

Bob MacIntyre, for example, has joined four of his team-mates - Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Fitzpatrick, Justin Rose and Ludvig Aberg - in making the journey to Hawaii to tee up in the Sony Open, the first full-field event of the new PGA Tour season.

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But, for three others - Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood and Nicolai Hojgaard - it’s a reunion in the Middle East as they tee up in a new event on the DP World Tour, the Dubai Invitational along with Luke Donald, the triumphant European captain over the Americans in the Italian capital.

McIlroy’s presence in a 60-man field at Dubai Creek, where it’s a pro-am format for the opening three rounds is mainly as a “favour” to Abdullah Al Naboodah, a pivotal figure in golf’s development in the UAE over the last 20 years and a current non-executive director of the European Tour Group.

“I have a lot of friends in Dubai and I know a lot of the amateurs coming to play,” said McIlroy of competing in this week’s event before defending his Hero Dubai Desert Classic title at Emirates Golf Club next week. “I thought it would be a nice, gentle way to start the season, a good opportunity to get on the golf course, get a card in my hand but in a more relaxed setting, so I'm excited for that for the week.”

The four-time major winner said it was “mad to think” he’s starting out on his 18th full season on the DP World Tour. “But I'm as excited as I was for the first one,” he insisted. “I think every new year - new year, new opportunities, new goals.”

Can this finally be the year when he wins The Masters to become just the sixth player to complete a career grand slam? “My consistency's really been there over the last couple years, without winning one of the big ones (the majors), and I think that's the final piece of the puzzle for me,” said the 34-year-old Northern Irishman.

Fleetwood, who clinched victory for Europe in Rome, was in Hawaii last week for the PGA Tour’s season-opening The Sentry before heading to Dubai, where the Englishman is now based. “Thought it was further,” admitted Fleetwood of hearing that he’d travelled eight-and-a-half thousand miles to be playing in the UAE event. “Part of the job is to travel and last week was an event that I've always wanted to play.”

Ewen Ferguson, another Dubai resident, spearheads a Scottish contingent that also includes newly-wed Grant Forrest, Connor Syme, Calum Hill and Richie Ramsay, with the latter making his first appearance of the new campaign.

MacIntyre, meanwhile, will have Rico Hoey from Phillipines and Belgian Adrien Dumont de Chassart for company when the Scot sets out as a PGA Tour card holder in his opening round in Honolulu on Thursday.

Martin Laird, a four-time winner on the US circuit, is also flying the Saltire in the $8.3 million event, which, to put it in perspective, dwarfs the $2.5 million up for grabs at Dubai Creek.

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