01 Oct 2022

Luke Donald: The countdown to next year’s Ryder Cup is well and truly up and running

There may be another 12 months to go until the first tee shot at the 2023 Ryder Cup, but our preparations are already progressing well for next year’s contest in Rome.

Qualification for Team Europe got under way at the BMW PGA Championship last month, a milestone which I said at the time in many ways represented the true beginning of the Ryder Cup journey, and I could not have been happier with the start we have had so far.

As Captain, it was almost the ideal scenario for me over the first three weeks, with European players winning the BMW PGA Championship, the DS Automobiles Italian Open and Cazoo Open de France, along with other strong performances from a blend of leading stars, those with previous Ryder Cup experience and talented younger players.

At Wentworth, it was great to see Shane Lowry winning one of the DP World Tour’s biggest events, with fellow Ryder Cup players Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and 2018’s record breaker Francesco Molinari all finishing inside the top ten. Similarly in Italy, it was terrific to see Rory and US Open Champion Matt Fitzpatrick contending throughout the week on the Ryder Cup course and one of our impressive emerging European players, Robert MacIntyre, winning his second DP World Tour title.

Along with last year’s Italian Open Champion Nicolai Højgaard and his brother Rasmus, Robert was one of a crop of young, potential Ryder Cup players I was keen to see step up during the qualification campaign. I was therefore pleased to see him do just that so early in proceedings, along with Victor Perez and Aaron Rai who finished third and fifth respectively in Italy.

In terms of the golf course at Marco Simone, we also got a glimpse of the drama it will provide in match play next September, with the risk and reward of the 16th hole coming to the fore on the Sunday, and the 18th hole play-off between Robert and Matt proving decisive in the outcome of the tournament.

The Italian Open was my final leg of three consecutive weeks in action as a player on the DP World Tour, during which time I took the opportunity to spend time with many potential team members and also the staff at Ryder Cup Europe.

Together we took the opportunity to review many of the ‘behind the scenes’ aspects of the planning for the Ryder Cup, such as the team rooms, uniform and hotels, and I’m very grateful to the support team for all they have done. I also used the opportunity to take a closer look at the course with my vice captains, Edoardo Molinari and Thomas Bjørn, and suggest some changes which can be implemented ahead of the next Italian Open there in May.

All of these small details contribute to the overall success of a Ryder Cup  team and I am determined to leave no stone unturned. One of the questions I often get in the media is which of the Captains you played under are you most similar to? The reality is, I have written down notes from all the Captains I have had since my very first Ryder Cup, and each one has been slightly different, but I probably match up most with Bernhard Langer as we are both very detailed oriented people.

I’m definitely more of a quiet leader in terms of my style, but at the same time, the Ryder Cup brings out something different in all of us that you don’t perhaps see when we are playing as individuals. I’ve said to many of the younger players who hope to be in Rome that the Ryder Cup is special as you are playing for something bigger than yourself.

So many of my best memories are from Ryder Cups, including the Miracle at Medinah ten years ago this month. Those things stay with you forever, and I hope the opportunity to be part of a Ryder Cup in Rome will provide plenty of motivation for European players over the next 12 months.

That may indeed have been the case for Dubai-based Italian Guido Migliozzi who followed up a solid showing in his national Open by returning to winning ways in the Cazoo Open de France courtesy of a magnificent approach shot into the 18th hole at Le Golf National, the last European course to host a Ryder Cup.

Guido is another hugely talented young European player, as that incredible shot highlighted, and I was delighted to hear him say after his victory in Paris that playing in next year’s Ryder Cup on home soil would be ‘a dream come true’.

I will be back in the Eternal City at the start of next month for the Year to Go celebrations, along with my American counterpart Zach Johnson, whom of course I know well from many years together on Tour. It will be yet another special moment to look forward to now the countdown to next year’s Ryder Cup is well and truly up and running.

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