Ryder Cup

Why a Luke Donald sequel as European Ryder Cup captain is sounding more and more possible

October 04, 2023

David Howell is set to play in his record 722nd event on the DP World Tour this week. He's also among those in charge of overseeing the Ryder Cup captain selection process.

David Cannon

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — It was, as he laughingly admitted, his first visit to a media center in quite some time—“about seven years” to be sort of exact. But David Howell wasn’t up on stage to talk about his chairmanship of the DP World Tour’s Tournament Committee. Nor had he been asked to come in for a chat about the television commentary he had done for Sky Sports at last week’s Ryder Cup. No, longevity was the initial subject of choice for the 48-year-old Englishman, who this week at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship will play in a record-breaking 722nd European/DP World Tour event.

“It feels a bit weird really,” said the two-time Ryder Cup player, who was briefly ranked in the world’s top-10, a few months after seeing off Tiger Woods down the stretch to win the 2005 WGC-HSBC Champions. “But lovely. You start off trying to get on tour, you want to earn a living, you eventually realize you're going to do that and have big hopes winning tournaments, eventually Ryder Cups. But I don't think you ever dream of being here this many years later. I’ve overtaken first, Sam [Torrance] and eventually, Miguel [Angel Jimenez], who is still going strong. It's been a life's work and it's been amazing.

“I'm pretty sure Miguel will overtake me again unless I play exceedingly well this week,” Howell continued. “I'm getting very close to the end of my playing days sadly on this tour, which will be a sad moment for me. Miguel with the brilliance he's shown into his 50s is, I'm sure, just about more than welcome at any tournament. I'm sure he can leapfrog over me once more. I don't think it's going to be a running battle.”

Still, exactly 10 years on from his most recent win, the 2013 Dunhill Links, it wasn’t long before Howell was metaphorically changing hats. In his chairmanship role on the Tournament Committee, he is involved in the selection of the next European Ryder Cup captain, a process he intimated is likely to see some change next time round. But Howell’s assessment of Luke Donald’s performance last week did hint heavily at where his vote is likely to go.


Naomi Baker

“Luke as our captain was clearly, I would say, flawless,” Howell said. “From speaking the entire first paragraph in his speech in fluent Italian with an accent, he looked like he had taken to the role incredibly well. The decisions he made seemed perfect just about all the way through, and boy, did his players perform.”

So how likely is it that Donald will get the nod?

“There's no reason why he couldn’t,” Howell said. “We're going to have a different selection process this year I believe. Details to be confirmed going forward. A lot of support for ‘captain fantastic’ at the moment and rightly so. But where we go with it as a tour won't be down to the players' committee. It will be a collaboration of a few different entities within our environment, and we'll come up with the best choice possible.

Howell noted previous times where Europe has leaned on repeat captains. “Of course, we have history with [Tony] Jacklin and Bernard Gallacher doing it three times in a row each. We have moved away from that model to give everyone a fair crack at the whip and have their moment in the sun. Luke has enjoyed that. We'll see where we go.”

Howell said the selection process won’t begin until later in the year and is not likely to include formal interviews as has been the case in the recent past.

Some strong hints in there. For those fond of a wager, putting money down on Donald, the sequel, at Bethpage Black 2025 sounds like a smart investment.