PALM HARBOR, FLORIDA – Luke Donald can’t hide his dissatisfaction.
He tries his hardest, says all the right things, and hopes his time will come, but the truth is that he wanted the job of European Ryder Cup captain in 2023 in Italy, and it was a bitter pill to swallow when Guy Kinnings, Ryder Cup director, phoned and announced that Sweden’s Henrik Stenson would lead Team Euro in Rome.
“I thought I had a chance this time, but it wasn’t to be,” Donald said, his upper lip stiff as a Brit’s. “I was disappointed that I didn’t get the nod, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do it in the future.” I wish Henrik the best of luck and will be there for him every step of the way.”
Donald, 44, was among those considered, along with Scotland’s Paul Lawrie and Sweden’s Robert Karlsson. Donald stated that he delivered a 30-minute presentation to the three most recent Ryder Cup captains – Darren Clarke, Thomas Bjorn, and Padraig Harrington – as well as David Howell, chairman of the DP World Tour tournament committee, and DP World Tour CEO Keith Pelley.
Donald, who played four times for Team Europe, was led by four captains with distinct personalities. He claimed that Germany’s Bernhard Langer, captain in 2004, was the most detail-oriented and closest to Donald’s style.
“This year, we’re going to have to really motivate the players to come back from what was a tough defeat,” said Donald, who was a vice captain at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin when the United States defeated Europe 19-9. “The defeat itself will provide plenty of motivation for the players to pick up their games.” They didn’t perform anywhere near as well as they knew they could. They faced a strong United States team, but for whatever reason, the players did not perform well. We need to address that and improve it for a run.”
Donald has been groomed for a future leadership role after serving as a vice captain in the last two Cups in Paris and Whistling Straits. “I believe I would,” Donald said if asked to do a third tour of duty as a buggy driver. It’s not an easy job, but it’s less demanding than being a captain or a player. It’s a demanding job. We have a lot going on, but I love being a part of the Ryder Cup.”
Despite being passed over for the captaincy this time, Donald remains hopeful that his time will come, but recognizes that there is a slew of potential candidates, including Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Graeme McDowell, and Sergio Garcia, to name a few.
“This year, I thought I had a good chance. “Hopefully, that’s not the end of my chance,” Donald said. “We have a lot of very worthy candidates, Ryder Cup legends, guys like Sergio, I’m not sure how this whole Saudi thing is going to play out and if anyone is going to be knocked out because of that.” That is a bit of a question mark.”
Donald stated that he would have liked the opportunity to captain the team in Italy, noting that the United States hasn’t won the Cup on the road since 1993. But that doesn’t mean he won’t try to win a road match, such as putting his name in the running for Bethpage Black in New York in 2025. Given that he has been based in the United States since 1997, Donald speculated that the Team Europe selection committee might believe he is better suited to lead the Euros’ 12-man squad on foreign soil in the United States.
“It’s a tough crowd (at Bethpage), but I haven’t given them a lot of ammunition in my career,” Donald said. “I believe I would be fine and would welcome the opportunity.”
For the time being, Donald is concentrating on improving his own game. He’s missed the cut in three of his last four starts coming into this week’s Valspar Championship, and he’s dropped to 574th in the world. He regained World No. 1 status a decade ago with a playoff victory at the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course.
“It doesn’t seem like that long ago,” he remarked. “At the very end, I remember hitting a great 7-iron.” “I won with a 1-in-10 shot from a sloppy lie that came out perfectly to 6 feet below the hole and slipped it in the left-hand side of the cup.”