The Europe Ryder Cup overlords are ready to rip up the captaincy selection process, making it easier for Luke Donald to be reappointed for the next match in New York – and harder for LIV rebels to ever find their way into the hot seat.
The overhaul will likely occur in the next few months, and although it might cause controversy among those who fear the new mechanism will see them overlooked, the DP World Tour believes any backlash will easily be outweighed by the positives.
Not only would the current selection panel – featuring past captains – be scrapped, but also the application and interview procedure.
Sources insist that the decision had already been made before the match in Rome, but the 16½- 11½ defeat of the Americans and the resulting call from the players for Donald to stay on for the 2025 match at Bethpage has strengthened the conviction to change. As has the realisation that it will severely diminish the chances of the likes of Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia from fulfilling their dream to lead the continent.
Telegraph Sports understands that Donald was not keen on having to go through the cumbersome process again, believing that his performance as captain at Marco Simone was the ideal interview.
As it stands he would have to go up against other candidates who applied and explain to a panel including Padraig Harrington – who presided over the record 19-9 defeat in 2021 and Thomas Bjorn, the 2018 skipper who was one of Donald’s assistants in the Italian captain – as well as Tour chief executive Keith Pelley why he should be handed the post.
Donald admitted on Monday that he will ‘consider’ stepping up again for 2025, but insiders indicate he would prefer to be invited. Last March, the Englishman was originally overlooked by the panel for Henrik Stenson and only landed the position when the Swede was stripped for breaking a contract he signed by joining LIV in a £30 million deal.
Donald was disappointed by the rejection and understandably does not want to expose himself to the same formula. The scenario would also be complicated by the fact that, under the present policy, Donald would be on the selection panel himself as one of the most recent three captains.
“It’s all fair enough,” the source said. “The chances are that if he says he’s up for it then nobody else would apply. But there are a few characters who want a chance and if the deal with LIV goes through the rebels might become available and they could throw their hats into the ring.
“They would be interviewed by friends, who might find it awkward to turn them down, considering their Ryder Cup reputations. The Tour is looking for a way to make it much less formalised and simpler. There were doubts over Henrik’s commitment from the start and maybe with another system, Luke would have had the benefit of a full term.”
Adopting the PGA of America’s process is one option. Seth Waugh, the CEO of the governing body which oversees the American arm of the Ryder Cup, takes soundings of former captains and vice-captains and players and then presents a suggestion to the board, that gets voted through. It guards against embarrassment for those not selected and gives the PGA of America overall control.
With the antiquated system abandoned, Donald would feel free to become the first European since Bernard Gallagher 28 years agi to retain the captaincy – so long as his wife, Diane, agrees.
“I’ll obviously consider it. I’ve certainly not given it any thought at the moment,” he said at the team hotel on Monday. “I want to enjoy it right now. Look, it’s not an easy job. It took a lot of time. It took a lot of effort, a lot of thinking. So I would have to seriously sit down and consider that with my wife and my family.”
Donald knows what he will be risking if he returns. “Right now I can walk away and think I’ve done an amazing job this week,” he said. “The players are really happy and we won, and I could leave that as my legacy.”
There is no doubt that despite this resounding win, Europe will be huge underdogs in New York. By the time of the 45th Ryder Cup, they will have won once on away soil in 21 years and the Bethpage Black atmosphere is predicted to be one of the most hostile on record. Indeed, such is the frankly petrifying potential of that week, that Harrington told Telegraph Sport, “I am honestly not sure if anyone will want that job”.
Donald is not so pessimistic. “Without thinking too far ahead, New York is an interesting place,” he said. “The fans are very passionate, very loud and very boisterous. The energy will be there and you need to turn that energy to your side. How do you do that? I know how to create a culture where the team gets unified, but it’s about blocking out that noise.”
There is a huge upside if Donald does resume the role and triumphs once more to become the first Europe captain to win in back-to-back Ryder Cups since Tony Jacklin in 1987.
“It’s always easier to win at home whether you are a US or Europe captain,” he said. “To win in America is special. [Bernard] Langer has done it. Jose Maria [Olazabal] has done it. It’s an extra feather in the cap if you can win away.”
Shane Lowry certainly believes Donald has the wherewithal to achieve the task. “He is like a silent assassin,” Lowry said. “He doesn’t say much, but when he says it you listen. I have only got to know Luke over the last year or so and he is a good, fun person and was amazing in this match.
“Nobody else is standing out right now [regarding] who would be the next captain. Rosey [Justin Rose] maybe? But I think he can play the next one and I am sure he thinks the same. We would all be very happy to have Luke next time.”
The candidates to captain Europe and the USA at Bethpage for 2025 Ryder Cup
Donald was only parachuted in last year after Henrik Stenson’s defection to LIV but proved to be an extremely popular captain in Rome, earning plaudits for his calmness and attention to detail. Captaining twice on the trot is not standard practice, but Europe’s players seem all for it, chanting “two more years, two more years” shortly after lifting the trophy. Donald says he “would consider” going again.
The oldest member of Team Europe at Marco Simone, Rose once again rose to the Ryder Cup occasion, shepherding rookie Bob Macintyre around, draining big putts at crucial moments, going toe-to-toe with an inspired Patrick Cantlay in the singles, not to mention winning the Nicklaus-Jacklin award for the player deemed to have best embodied the spirit of the game. Would be a popular choice but may feel he still has one or even two more Ryder Cups in him as a player.
Not as well-known or as successful as his brother Francesco, who famously went 5-0-0 in Paris in 2018, but Edoardo Molinari is a three-time European Tour winner, a former Ryder Cup player (2010, Celtic Manor) and was a vice-captain in Rome where he will have learned a lot from how Donald went about things. Famously analytical, he runs a stats company which many of the players use.
Watching the Belgian, a vice-captain in Rome, perform the role of Team Europe hype man on the first tee was instructive. Colsaerts nearly lost his voice as he screamed ‘Europe’ and led the crowds in performing thunderclaps. Clearly a big personality. Only played in one Ryder Cup himself but it was the Miracle of Medinah. Could he summon that spirit in what is sure to be a hostile atmosphere at Bethpage Page?
A LIV player
Currently out of the question, but if the deal/merger between PIF and the PGA and DP World Tours goes through, then Ryder Cup stalwarts such as Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell and Henrik Stenson would presumably come right back into the reckoning.
The dream choice from pretty much everyone’s perspective… Team USA, Team Europe, fans, media. Even now, after over a decade of injuries and controversies, the 15-time major champion is by far the biggest draw in golf. Has happy memories of Bethpage Black, too, having won a US Open there in 2002. Former USA captain Paul Azinger has indicated that Woods may take on the mantle.
At the other end of the excitement scale from Woods, but a safe pair of hands and knows the ropes having played in five Ryder Cup teams himself (albeit only winning once). He performed vice-captain duties in Rome, along with Fred Couples, Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker. All of whom could step up, with Stricker having obviously captained USA to victory at Whistling Straits.
Another American with vast Ryder Cup experience (four as a player, one as vice-captain), Kuchar has a reputation as one of the most polite and gentlemanly players on the PGA Tour. Might be a helpful counterbalance at Bethpage Black, which is expected to be off-the-scale in terms of crowd hostility and hijinks.
Would be a controversial pick and, like the LIV rebels on the European side, would need the golfing landscape to change dramatically in the next few months to stand any chance. If a peace deal is struck, however, it is hard to argue that Mickelson’s resume does not put him in the conversation to lead his country at a Ryder Cup.