Luke Donald has been named Europe’s Ryder Cup captain for next year’s contest
in Rome after Henrik Stenson was stripped of the role. The Englishman confirmed he would retain Stenson’s vice-captains Thomas Bjorn and Edoardo Molinari in his backroom team
Last Updated: 02/08/22 10:12am
Paul McGinley reflects on Luke Donald being appointed as Europe’s Ryder Cup captain and what the assesses what the former world No 1 needs to do ahead of next year’s contest in Italy.
I don’t think there’s much surprise around Donald being named captain. Many felt he was the natural replacement when Henrik stepped away.
Some had pencilled him in as the successor to Henrik Stenson anyway, based on his age profile.
However he now gets an opportunity to captain at home which historically has proven an easier edition to achieve success in.
Stenson has chosen his own pathway. It has been well documented that he had a contract with the European Tour that precluded him from being part of a rival tour.
Therefore, his press conference last week where he suggested he wanted to stay on as captain while also playing LIV events was surprising to say the least.
Although Stenson hit the ground running with his win last week in his first event with LIV, we move on quickly and Donald is now very much the guy for Europe going forward. Henrik’s term as captain is a footnote in the bigger scheme of things.
Donald has had an amazing record as a player and of course that will have an influence on his leadership of the team next year. Ryder Cup captaincy is unique in that what you have achieved as a player determines to quite a large extent your opportunity to one day captain. It’s not always ideal, but it is the tradition and will remain so.
However, it’s not always about being part of winning teams that’s relevant, as often it’s the losses and sometimes the mistakes of the other team that give the most learning. Luke will have learned a lot from his two vice-captaincy roles and particularly the one edition where he was part of a losing team, last year in Whistling Straits. As we lost by such a big margin, I’m sure there are a lot of lessons learned as he looks towards his captaincy in Italy next year.
In golf we spend most of our time losing, even as successful players, and we are constantly in a mental place of contextualising and analysing – along with our own support teams – where we went wrong and what we need to do to fix it. This is a valuable state of mind when you become a captain as it comes naturally to us golfers and steepens learning curves, preparing us somewhat for the analytical based role that captaincy highlights.
The very first job that Donald will have to do is to put together a qualification criteria on how he would like the team to be constructed. The number of picks needs thought, particularly in these tumultuous times in professional golf.
Once he decides on the number of picks that he would like he then moves on to how many will qualify off the DP World Tour and how many from the world rankings – each captain has the right to outline the formula they would like and they then submit that to the players representative committee who decide whether to sanction it or not.
Ryder cup captaincy is very much overseen by your peers on the players committee as well as past captains, from start to finish. That’s why you often hear players say how honoured and humbled that are to be made captain – because it was the decision of their peers that made them captain.
Who will play in the Ryder Cup?
There’s a lot of water to flow under the bridge between now and the Ryder Cup, but one of the questions that will be asked is the eligibility of those players who have chosen to go over and play on the LIV Golf tour.
What happens next? A lot of that will be depend on what the courts decide and whether they can remain members of the DP World Tour while also playing the LIV tour, earn qualification points and potentially be Ryder Cup players.
A lot of these guys are falling out of the top-50 in the world and they’re not playing on the PGA Tour, so it’s very hard for them to get points. Lots of these scenarios will unfold and be resolved away from the golf course, so we’ll just have to wait and see and deal in time with that when it comes up.
However, if the court case does go the LIV players way, Luke may well have to weigh up the form of players who are not playing golf under the normal competitive conditions to see if they are of the standard and mental edge needed for Ryder Cup.
Donald may well also have to consider managing and moulding those players with the ones who have stayed loyal to the tour. If that eventuality does happen, it will be challenging to say the least and would test the skills of the very top leaders in any industry!
I think the Americans are generally always strong favourites, but their captain Zach Johnson has already made it quite clear that players who have gone to LIV Golf will not be on his team. Although that may weaken them, they will still remain strong favourites. Big names like Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed and Dustin Johnson will all not be part of that team and that can only be good for Europe.
We still have the backbone of a very strong team, with the likes Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Viktor Hovland all very much at the forefront, but we need to have some young players coming through and that’s what we’re missing more than anything in Europe at the moment.
They need to replace the stellar contributions over the years of the European guys who have chosen to go to LIV Golf, the likes of Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson and Lee Westwood in particular were all in the twilight of their careers and I’m not so sure if they were going to make another Ryder Cup team anyway.
We would certainly like to see three or four new young European guys flowering and flourishing, particularly when it comes to the international stage around the majors. You do need that injection of youth and that’s what we’re looking towards in Europe.
So lots now in place, but lots of issues to be resolved and managed before a ball is struck in Rome next September.