London: Rory McIlroy and his teammates wanted it. The European tour wanted it. And, after some reflection, Luke Donald wanted it, too.
Emboldened by seemingly unanimous backing, Donald accepted an offer to stay on as Europe’s Ryder Cup captain for its defence of the 17-inch golden trophy in 2025 at Bethpage Black in New York.
The 45-year-old Donald led the Europeans to a 16½-11½ victory over the United States outside Rome last month. As he was delivering his victory speech at Marco Simone, Europe’s players — led by McIlroy and Shane Lowry — started a chant of “two more years.”
“Hearing them shout two more years, at the back of my mind I thought I don’t really want to let these guys down,” Donald said Wednesday after the European tour announced he would be carrying on in the role.
Still, Donald gave himself a few weeks to weigh up his options, speak to his family and decide whether he wanted to take on a task that, to many, is up there with the toughest in golf: winning a Ryder Cup on the road.
In truth, he was never going to turn it down once European Ryder Cup officials said it was his job if he wanted it.
Donald saw overturning Europe’s record defeat at Whistling Straits in 2021 as a massive challenge. He believes retaining the trophy in front of a boisterous New York crowd will be even tougher.
“That’s the ultimate, to try to win away from home,” Donald said, before adding with a smile that he had done so twice as a player — the second time at Medinah in 2012 when the Europeans came from 10-6 down at the start of the Sunday singles. That’s the last time an away team has won the Ryder Cup.
“I have never shied away from challenges throughout my career and it is precisely the kind of thing that motivates me.”
Donald will be the first to captain Europe in back-to-back Ryder Cups since Bernard Gallacher, who had three in a row (1991, 1993 and 1995).
Only Tony Jacklin has led Europe to wins at home and away in golf’s biggest show. That was at The Belfry in 1985 and then at Muirfield Village in Ohio in 1987.
Matching that feat would be something special to add to a resume that already includes being the top-ranked golfer for a cumulative 56 weeks, becoming the first player to lead the money list on both the PGA Tour and European tour in the same season, and having a 70% win rate at the Ryder Cup — the highest of any European to have played in the event at least three times.
Guy Kinnings, executive director of Ryder Cup Europe, said it was an easy choice to back Donald after he showed brains, strategy and inner tenacity for the battle at Marco Simone and boldness before that in selecting youngsters like Ludvig Aberg and Nicolai Hojgaard as captain’s picks.
“His approach to captaincy was pretty much as we had anticipated — it was calm, it was measured, it was meticulous, and it was successful. He really was an exceptional captain in so many ways,” Kinnings said.
“From his leadership of the team, the 12 players, the caddies, the vice captains, and then all of us, the team behind the team, he was truly impressive throughout. He clearly has the respect and support of the players.”
Donald said he was happy with the qualifying system leading into the 2023 Ryder Cup that gave him six captain’s picks, though that was still to be confirmed again.
He also said his big challenge over the next 22 months was to devise a strategy that would best allow his players to thrive in a febrile atmosphere expected at Bethpage.
“The New Yorkers love their sport and they love some jostling and all that kind of that goes with it,” Donald said. “It’s the same every time you go away and New York might be a notch above that.”
As for talk of Tiger Woods, the biggest name in golf, potentially being selected as the United States’ captain for 2025, Donald played that very straight.
“Tiger’s been mentioned as a possible candidate and we’ll have to wait and see,” he said. “I have great admiration for what he’s done in the game. You would think he was going to be a Ryder Cup captain at some point and if it’s this time, great. If it’s another time, great. But, again, it’s not really my focus.”