Luke Donald humbled by players’ support for his return as Ryder Cup captain

By Sports Desk November 29, 2023

Luke Donald admits it was “humbling and gratifying” to have the support of Europe’s players after being named captain for the 2025 Ryder Cup.

Donald has been reappointed after masterminding a commanding victory in Rome earlier this year, after which the winning team immediately urged him to break with recent tradition and remain in charge.

Support for the 45-year-old was such that it was inevitable that he would become Europe’s first repeat captain since Bernard Gallacher performed the role in 1991, 1993 and 1995.

The former world number one will also bid to become only the second captain after Tony Jacklin in 1985 and 1987 to win home and away.

While Jacklin and Gallacher led the side on multiple occasions, it had been common practice since 1997 for the captain to only get one bite of the cherry, even if – like Bernhard Langer and Ian Woosnam – they spearheaded record victories.

However, Europe’s players made it clear they wanted that to change as they chanted “two more years” while Donald gave a television interview following the five-point victory in Rome.

“I think everyone sitting here would be very happy to have him again,” Rory McIlroy said in the winning team’s press conference, while Tommy Fleetwood hailed Donald as “phenomenal”.

Speaking after being reappointed, Donald said: “It was so humbling, so gratifying to hear that they wanted me to carry on and certainly that was a big part of my decision to do that.

“We created some special moments, some special memories that week and to have their backing meant the world to me.

“When I was lifting that trophy and hearing the support the guys had for me, even back then I thought I can’t let the lads down and maybe I have to do this again.

“Not often in life are you given great opportunities and I really feel like this is an amazing opportunity.

“I was given a great opportunity to do Rome [after Henrik Stenson was sacked for joining LIV] and I certainly took it with both hands and to obviously be given the opportunity to go back-to-back is something that I love.

“As Rory said, it’s the ultimate to try to win away from home. I’ve done it twice as a player but it’s not easy. We have to go back to 2012 for (a win) in the US.

“We know that in any sport when you have the crowd behind you it’s a big advantage and certainly I’ll have to figure out ways to kind of counter that.”

Donald could also have to face up to Tiger Woods being his opposite number at Bethpage Black, although the 15-time major winner said on Tuesday that he has become so involved in his new player-director role on the PGA Tour that any conversations about the captaincy would have to take a back seat.

Donald is relaxed about the prospect regardless, preferring to focus instead on whether to retain his five vice-captains and assessing if having six qualifiers and six wild cards is the best system for selecting a team.

“I’m sure someone like Francesco (Molinari) would love to play in New York as I’m sure he feels like he still has an opportunity to do it,” Donald said.

“You saw Justin Rose at age 43 have a great Ryder Cup himself. That’s inspiring, I’m sure, to someone like that.

“I’ll certainly look at all the candidates and all the vice-captains that were under me and have conversations with them and see where their mind is as well. That process starts right now.

“[The qualifying] worked well this time around. We had six picks and those picks performed well. I think we were able to pick some experienced players, some rookies, it was a nice freedom to have as captain.

“Again, those decisions have yet to be decided and that’s probably the number one priority for me to try and figure out, is this the best way going forward?”

Whether future captains also get to lead the team home and away also remains to be seen.

“Right now what we’ve done is made the decision which is based on the goal of retaining the trophy in 2025,” Ryder Cup Europe executive director Guy Kinnings said.

“So I don’t think that it should be read anything more than that. What we’ve done is taken the circumstances we have in front of us and made what I hope, which I know is the right decision, and got the right man at the helm.”

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