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Ryder Cup: Europe captain Luke Donald’s task fraught with difficulty and uncertainty’

Donald was one of Thomas Bjorn’s vice-captains when Europe defeated the United States in Paris in 2018

Never before has a Ryder Cup captain been installed in such difficult circumstances.

Normally the appointment is a coronation, a moment of celebration and excitement and while Luke Donald is thrilled, at last, to be piloting Europe’s quest to regain the trophy he is also aware that the task is fraught with difficulty and uncertainty.

As golf’s civil war rages, the 44-year-old has 14 months to fashion a team capable of overturning last year’s record 19-9 defeat by a youthful United States line-up at Whistling Straits.

That is already a tough ask, but more pressingly he has barely a month to come up with a formula from which to select his team. This at a time when the men’s game is tearing itself apart.

The qualifying process for his side is due to start in September, well before an outcome is expected from legal action that should determine whether players who have defective to LIV Golf will remain eligible for DP World Tour events.

“We don’t have enough clarity on the situation right now,” Donald told BBC Sport. “Hopefully that will get resolved as time goes on and then I will have a better idea of ​​how to deal with it.

“But my plan is to have 12 guys unified on the team and we will be ready to play against the Americans in Rome.”

Donald was second choice for the role after Henrik Stenson was stripped of the job a fortnight ago for signing a £40m contract with the Saudi Arabian-funded breakaway LIV setup.

The new captain has given the strongest possible assurances that he will not be jumping ship from Ryder Cup Europe in the same way as Stenson.

“I’ve signed a contract as Henrik did and I’m giving them my word,” said the Englishman.

“That’s all I can do and I promise you I will be seeing this through until the end. I’ve not been approached by LIV to play on their tour but I have this amazing opportunity to be this Ryder Cup captain.

“The Ryder Cup has meant so much to me over the years, some of my best moments on the golf course have been during Ryder Cups.

“The camaraderie, the team spirit, the history behind it. Everything that the Ryder Cup represents is very special to me and I think that’s important.”

Indeed Donald sees the biennial match between Europe and the US as an entity potentially capable of defusing the unprecedented power struggle prompted by LIV’s entry into the golf market.

“I think the Ryder Cup is the beacon of hope,” said Donald, who was on the winning side in all four of his playing appearances. “We have so much rich history in the Ryder Cup, almost 100 years.

“I remember so many more moments in Ryder Cups than I do probably from my individual career, just because it matters.

“We have amazing moments like Tony Jacklin and Jack Nicklaus and ‘the concession’ (at Royal Birkdale in 1969). We had the ‘War on the Shore,’ (1991) ‘The Battle of Brookline’ (1999) and the ‘Miracle at Madinah’ (2012).

“These things resonate with people and it has history and history is important because it encourages the next generation of players to get involved in the game.

“I think the Ryder Cup is a great platform to grow this game and I’m certainly privileged to be the captain and hopeful that history continues.”

Donald also plans to dip into more recent sporting history to try to inspire his team, who are likely to be underdogs at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club, for the match which starts on 29 September 2023.

The new skipper says he will reach out to England coach Sarina Wiegman following her team’s victory in the Euros last Sunday.

“I’m obviously extremely proud of what the Lionesses did,” Donald said.

“Any time I can talk to someone who is able to have such a success around a team, and I think you can see such comparisons between something like the Lionesses and the Ryder Cup.”

Donald added: “I’m sure I will be reaching out to many people who have had a lot of success in that team environment, one being Sarina.”

It may provide an enlightened and enlightening conversation. Donald will need plenty of those over the next 14 months.

He will appoint further vice-captains to work alongside Thomas Bjorn and Edoardo Molinari who were put in place by Stenson during his ill-fated 127 day reign.

Between them they have much to ponder, starting with how they will assemble a team.

“Obviously this is day one for me but it will be a busy next few weeks trying to figure out all those details and making sure we have a great system in place to give us the best opportunity for victory in Rome,” said the former world number one.

“But all I can do is control what I can control and move forward from here. I can’t control what’s happened in the past.”

And given the current golfing landscape, there is no bigger challenge than trying to have some influence on what is a most uncertain future.

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