Europe Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald said Tuesday it is a shame that several legends are “off the table” to help his cause after quitting the DP World Tour.
But the 45-year-old Englishman is excited about prospective players and confident Europe will field a strong side against holders United States in Italy next September.
Speaking at Oak Hill two days before the start of the PGA Championship, Donald was checking out prospective members of his squad while coping with the recent resignations from the former European Tour.
Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, who had been Europe’s captain before being removed after leaping to the Saudi-backed LIV Golf League, joined Ryder Cup stars Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia in resigning from the DP World Tour after fines were announced on members who played in LIV events.
Garcia, Poulter and Westwood formed the backbone of several mighty Europe sides and were likely future captains and assistants.
“For those three guys to not captain Europe one day, it’s a shame,” said current Europe talisman Rory McIlroy.
“It’s a shame there were some resignations,” Donald said. “A lot of these guys have built their legacy around DP World Tour members and their participation and everything with the Ryder Cup.
“But ultimately that was their decision, and unfortunately they’re off the table now for selection purposes for myself.”
While reigning Masters champion Jon Rahm of Spain and reigning US Open champion Matthew Fitzpatrick of England figure to have trips to Italy locked down, Donald will have six captain’s selections to make to fill out his roster.
“I’ve always tried to concentrate on looking at all the players that week in, week out are committed to try and make that Ryder Cup, and that hasn’t changed,” Donald said. “I’ve got to always take what I have in front of me and kind of go forward.
“I’m still excited about all the players we have on offer, both rookies and established players, and I think our team will be very good.”
But it’s a jarring blow to lose iconic talent that produced memorable triumphs.
“These things have all happened in a series of events that ultimately were their decisions,” Donald said.
“We all knew when LIV came about and it was approached to a lot of us that if you did that, there were these chances that stuff like this could happen and you could put your potential future in jeopardy.
“I think everyone knew that.”
Donald said he felt no personal hurt at the decisions of his former Ryder Cup teammates.
“I’m not disappointed in anything. They have to make the choice which they feel is best for them,” he said.
“Probably some of this happening five months out is a little bit better than happening a few weeks out. It gives me a little bit more clarity of what I have to work with.”
– ‘Close eye on scoring’ –
LIV players, banned by the PGA Tour but allowed in the PGA Championship, haven’t come up in talks with US captain Zach Johnson.
“Whether LIV players play on his team, again, I haven’t really talked to him much about it as a captains’ agreement,” Donald said.
Donald pointed out European-born LIV players still on the tour could play on his team, although it’s unlikely.
He’s looking to see who might show him the grit for a Ryder Cup under the pressure at Oak Hill.
“I’m sure there will be some rookies on that team,” Donald said. “It’s always good to see how potential rookies do in major championships. It takes a different kind of mindset, a different kind of nerve.
“A good performance at a major can go a long way. It’s not everything but certainly I’ll be keeping a close eye on the scoring.”
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