RORY McILROY warmed-up for the British Open with a three-under par on day one of the French Open and then suggested Paul McGinley be considered a Ryder Cup Vice-Captain.
McIlroy was singing the praises of the triple Ryder Cup winning Irishman after European captain Colin Montgomerie indicated yesterday in Versailles he will announce his vice-captains two days after the Open.
Monty will make the announcement on July 20 when most observers believe McGinley, Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn and possibly Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez will be confirmed as his backroom team.
McIlroy was a member of last year’s GB & I Vivendi Trophy winning team and having seen McGinley’s prowess up close, believes his experience would be invaluable in winning back the Ryder Cup.
“Paul was just up for it at the Vivendi Trophy and he was such a great motivator,” said McIlroy.
“So it would be awesome if Monty was to pick Paul as a vice-captain. Paul knows all the guys and just gets on well with everyone. He’s highly respected as a player and to have played in three straight winning Ryder Cup teams is going to be an enormous plus for Europe.
“But then, knowing Paul as well as I do, I know how much he still wants to play his way into the team but if that should not transpire then what a plus it will be for all of us to have him as one of Monty’s vice–captains.”
McIlroy and Damien McGrane head the nine-man Irish contingent contesting the Euro €3m French Open after three under par 68s on the 2018 Ryder Cup candidate course.
It left the Irish duo trailing five strokes behind Dutchman Robert Jan Derksen who birdied the last in an eight under par 63 to lead the field by three strokes.
Three players – defending champ Martin Kaymer, Frenchman Jean Van de Velde and Spain’s Alejandro Canizares – are tied in second place with five under par 66s.
The event is McIlroy’s first in Europe in some six weeks and also a first since missing the halfway cut in last month’s US Open.
McIlroy arrived in Versailles with long-time coach, Michael Bannon and he believes that will also benefit him ahead of the British Open.
“Michael has been working on trying to get my backswing a little tighter,” said McIlroy.
“So it’s all about having a smooth transition which gets me back on plane with my swing.”
McGrane again skipped the British Open qualifier at Sunningdale and also did not seek to enter Tuesday’s similar 36-hole qualifier in the St. Andrews region.
But the 39-year-old can still join McIlroy and five other Irish into golf’s oldest Major by finishing in the top-five over these next two weeks.
Michael Hoey posted a two under par 69 while Shane Lowry made sure he was on the tee well ahead of his 12.30pm tee time.
Twelve months ago, Lowry got his tee time mixed up and had to scurry down a grass embankment to be on the tee with just seconds to spare.
Lowry carded a 73 that was four strokes poorer than last year.
Meanwhile in a blow for organisers, World No. 3 Lee Westwood has withdrawn from this month’s Irish Open at Killarney.
Westwood confirmed after carding a first round one under par 70 that he will take a fortnight’s break from the game at the close of the British Open at St Andrews.
* It took less than 10 seconds for a judging panel yesterday to vote Graeme McDowell European Tour ‘Player of the Month’ for June in recognition of his stunning US Open triumph.
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