PEBBLE BEACH, CALIFORNIA (AP) – Luke Donald is on the fast road to become Europe’s next Ryder Cup captain, bringing expertise from four winning teams and two stints as an assistant. There was also one other factor he couldn’t overlook.
With a laugh, Donald said, “I guess we should definitely thank Saudi Arabia for that.”
Lee Westwood was rumored to be in contention for the 2023 matches in Italy until he dropped out. Ian Poulter is being touted as a possible captain for Bethpage Black in 2025. That leaves Donald and Henrik Stenson for the time being.
There are also concerns about who would use the Saudi money to join a rival tour.
“It seems like everyone expected Westwood would be the next captain – he’s clearly next in line, I’d have thought – but he obviously feels he’s playing well enough to make the team or he’s looking at something else,” Donald added. “Didn’t he say he signed an NDA?” “I guess I’m next in line, or a candidate,” I guess he’s talking to the Saudis, which is obviously a no-no for the European or PGA Tours.
Padraig Harrington, the captain of Whistling Straits and a member of the five-person committee that will select the next captain, has already expressed his support for Donald.
The 44-year-old Englishman has accumulated a 10-4-1 record while playing for four different clubs, all of which have won European titles (2004, 2006, 2010, and 2012).
To demonstrate how badly the Saudi-backed Super Golf League has thrown the tour off, Europe would normally have named a captain by now. Before the end of January, six of the last seven European captains had been announced.
Donald said he’s exchanged texts with Guy Kinnings, Europe’s Ryder Cup director, but the DP World Tour has “kept things close to the vest” otherwise.
“I guess I would have made the decision a month or two ago if it hadn’t been for some other situations,” Donald remarked. “It’s a little strange waiting around.” Knowing me, if I’m chosen, I’ll be eager to get started. I’d want to begin the procedure. September of the next year will be here before we know it. The more time I have to prepare and think of ideas that would benefit the team, the better.”
The Americans are also somewhat behind, however this is likely due to outgoing skipper Steve Stricker’s recovery from a sickness that landed him in the hospital. Zach Johnson is widely regarded as a front-runner.
When the captains have been chosen, the next step is to identify who is qualified to play. Players that joined a Super Golf League would not be members of their respective circuits, and it would appear that they would be unable to compete.
“Let’s be honest, let’s be honest. “Both teams will be without players if this happens,” Donald said.