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Ryder Cup

Luke Donald picked to return as European Ryder Cup captain in 2025

November 29, 2023
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Richard Heathcote

To the surprise of only the few who failed to witness his widely heralded leadership of the European team that convincingly beat the United States, 16½-11½, in the Ryder Cup two months ago, Luke Donald will return as captain of the Old World side when the biennial contest reconvenes at Bethpage Black on Long Island in 2025.

In so doing, the 45-year-old former World No. 1 is Europe’s first repeat skipper since Bernard Gallacher rounded off his third successive captaincy with an unlikely triumph at Oak Hill in 1995. Further incentive for Donald comes in the notion that he would, with another victory, be only the second European to lead his team to wins both home and away. Former Open and U.S. Open champion Tony Jacklin completed that so-far unique double at Muirfield Village in 1987, two years after what was Europe’s maiden victory at The Belfry two years earlier.

In a statement, Donald expressed his delight at the prospect of underlining the much-admired job he did at the Marco Simone Golf Club just outside Rome in September.

“I’m honored to have been given the chance to lead Team Europe in the Ryder Cup once again,” Donald said. “Great opportunities don’t come along very often in life, and I’m a great believer that when they do, you need to grab them with both hands. This is one of these moments. I’ve been fortunate as a player to have had many amazing times in the Ryder Cup over the years and so to add being a winning captain to that, to form bonds with the 12 players like we did in Italy and to get the result we did, was very special indeed.

“The Ryder Cup means so much to me, so to be captain again and have the chance to create more history by becoming only the second European captain to win back-to-back is exciting,” he continued. “There is no question that being a captain away from home is a tough task. But I have never shied away from challenges throughout my career, and it is precisely the kind of thing that motivates me. I can’t wait to get another 12-strong team to Bethpage in 2025.”

Perhaps understandably, Donald was quick to downplay any suggestion that the New York crowd the matches will attract will present a uniquely stressful and hostile atmosphere for his players.

“Certainly, that's part of the challenge,” he said. “All Ryder Cups are loud and boisterous, and New York won't be any different and maybe even more so. The New Yorkers love their sport and they love some jostling and all that kind of that goes with it. Obviously, I have 22 months to try and figure out how to get the guys in the right frame of mind to deal with that, with the crowd. It's the same every time you go away and New York might be a notch above that. Those are the sorts of things that will certainly be swishing around in my brain over the next few weeks.

“As Rory [McIlroy] said in the press, that's the ultimate to try to win away from home,” Donald continued. “I’ve done it twice [2004 and 2012] as a player, but it's not easy. It hasn't been done many times in Ryder Cups, and it certainly hasn't been done very often by Europe. We know that in any sport when you have the crowd behind you it's a big advantage. I’ll have to figure out ways to counter that.”

In the wake of McIlroy’s infamous disagreement with American caddie Joe LaCava in Italy, Donald was also keen to address the possibility of controversy—on and off the course.

“That’s what the Ryder Cup is about,” he maintained. “It’s a passionate event. Things have happened in many Ryder Cups. Joe realized he had made a mistake and apologized immediately. We used that as fuel on Sunday. But the fans love all that rivalry and two teams going head-to-head. But the fact that Rory was passionate about it just shows that he cares. I love that. And I love the fact that we're there to win and it's okay to be passionate in that environment.”

In addition to his obvious qualities as a captain, Donald is something of a European talisman when it comes to trans-Atlantic. A member of two winning Great Britain & Ireland sides in the Walker Cup (1999 and 2001), the Chicago-resident was part of the winning team in each of his four Ryder Cup appearances in European colors—contributing 10½ points from 15 matches—including the last Old World victory on American soil at Medinah in 2012. Only once, when serving as a vice-captain to Padraig Harrington at Whistling Straits in 2021, has he tasted defeat.

“Luke was a superb captain in Rome and we are delighted that he will be returning to the role for the 2025 Ryder Cup,” said Guy Kinnings, executive director, Ryder Cup at the DP World Tour. “He demonstrated clear, calm and meticulous leadership skills in Rome, and all those qualities will be big assets again for Luke and Team Europe as they take on the considerable challenge of trying to retain the Ryder Cup against a strong U.S. team backed by passionate support in New York.”