Is Donald the right fit to lead Europe in Italy?

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Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy in Wisconsin (Photo by Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

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“Good question. You tell me. I don’t know what’s happening.”

Words from victorious 2018 European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn, one of five to sit on the panel to choose a 2023 European Ryder Cup Captain.

Here we are into the third week of February but not a word from Wentworth when we’re likely to know who will lead Europe into competition later next year in Rome.

Of course, you could argue what’s the rush given we’re some 17-months shy of heading to the Italian capital, however, if the selection of past European Ryder Cup Captains is a yardstick, a new captain would already have been announced to the golfing world.

That was the case with Paul McGinley when he was handed the 2024 captaincy reins in January 2013 while it was seven years ago in early February 2015 when Darren Clarke was voted to lead Europe into competition at Hazeltine in 2016. Bjorn got the Versailles captaincy nod just two months later in the first week of December 2016 while Padraig Harrington’s captaincy for the intended pre-Covid hit 2020 Ryder Cup was announced early in January 2019.

And while Harrington’s replacement seems to be firming as Luke Donald, the Englishman’s expected choice does not seem to win the approval of the DP World rank-and-file.

Donald’s European Ryder Cup credentials would seem impeccable. At 44, he’s the right age. He’s played in four Ryder Cups, and each on a winning side (2004, 2006, 2010, and 2012) while securing 10½ from a possible 15 points. He’s also been a vice-captain under Bjorn and Harrington.

What seems to rile those not in favour of Donald is his support, or more-to-the-point lack of support, in teeing-up in European or the now renamed DP World Tour ‘regular’ tournaments.

Donald married an American and has long lived in the US, and there’s nothing wrong with that as so many other Europeans have American wives and full-time residences in the States.

Though in checking Donald’s DP World Tour career, it does make for interesting reading. He got his Tour card in 2004 but in his 178 Tour-counting events, he’s averaged just 10 events a year, and most of those in US events that count for your DP World card.

The past five years he’s contested just 21 European Tour events including just two in 2018 but none in 2020, and no doubt due to Covid, but Donald played in just four last year and those were in the fortnight before the Ryder Cup and two weeks after Whistling Straits.

As well, since 2013 Donald has not been seen at any European Tour events earlier than May with all of his appearances this side of ‘The Pond’ since 2018 always post the PGA Tour’s season-ender FedEx Cup Series. You also have to go back two decades to the last occasion he elected to support the Tour’s Middle East Swing and that was at the 2012 Abu Dhabi tournament.

“If the selection panel was honest in choosing a next European Ryder Cup captain, they should be selecting someone who has better supported the Tour, and not someone like Luke who rarely sees over here,” was one comment from one Tour player.

With Lee Westwood, still inside the top-50 on the World Rankings and wishing to try and qualify for Rome, ruling himself out of the Rome captaincy, along with Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson also not wishing to put their hand up, it does seem Donald will more than likely get the Rome nod.

We’ll just have to wait for the white smoke appearing over Tour HQ in leafy Surrey.

AND in talking about announcements, what is even more bizarre has been the lack of news from the DP World Tour why there we’ve not had the announcement of a 2021 European Tour ‘Golfer of the Year’.

Surely fans of 2021 US Open champion Jon Rahm and/or 2021 European Tour No. 1 Collin Morikawa would welcome such news, even though it is nearly three months into the new 2021/22 DP World Tour season?

The PGA Tour announced their 2021 ‘Player of the Year’, the PGA of America crowned their 2021 ‘Player of the Year’ and even the Association of Golf Writers announced the victorious 2021 European Solheim Cup side as the recipient of their major 2021 award.

Yet, here we are 55 days since the conclusion of the 2021 season and yet no announcement of a ‘Golfer of the Year’ in this 50th anniversary of the Tour.

Surely good cause for a celebration, even if long overdue?

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