The Europeans fell to a record defeat at Whistling Straits two years ago, with the USA so dominant in that 19-9 win that there were fears over how competitive the contest would be in the years ahead.
Players moving to the LIV tour means that Luke Donald’s European side will have a different look to it this time - five of those who featured in that heavy defeat will not be involved in Rome later this month.
McIlroy and Jon Rahm will be two of the big names expected to star for Team Europe, but Viktor Hovland will head to Italy as the FedEx Cup champion and the likes of Matt Fitzpatrick and Tommy Fleetwood have been in impressive in form too.
“I think it’s a really good team,” McIlroy told BBC Sport. “If you had have asked me at the start of the year what I thought our chances were, I thought we were going to have a really tough time.
“But the closer we’ve got to the cup, the more I’m liking what the team has become and the way everyone’s playing. We’re in a really good spot heading to Rome.”
There will be four rookies on the European team, with Ludvig Aberg one of those just a few months after he turned professional. The Swede, described by McIlroy as an “unbelievable player”, picked up his maiden DP World Tour victory at the European Masters in Switzerland over the weekend.
Ryder Cup stalwarts Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter are no longer in the picture, but McIlroy is confident that the new faces can make a big impression and have a positive impact on the team.
“It was always going to be a transitional time for Team Europe,” be said.
“There was going to be a lot of rookies on the team with a few of those older guys making some decisions that didn’t allow them to be a part of it any more.
“Someone like Ludvig, Nicolai Hojgaard and Bob MacIntyre - I think it’s great to have them on the team because it injects a fresh, youthful exuberance into the whole dynamic of the week which is really cool.”