A deflated Luke Donald admitted he “thought he had a chance” to become the next European Ryder Cup Captain before confirmation that Swede Henrik Stenson would take the reins for Rome in 2023.
Donald had been a long-time favourite amongst the bookmakers; the affable Englishman enjoying a Vice-Captain role alongside Stenson as part of Padraig Harrington’s Whistling Straits backroom team last year, albeit in the face of a a record breaking 19-9 defeat.
“I thought I had a chance this time but it wasn’t to be,” Donald told Golfweek.
“I was disappointed personally that I didn’t get the nod but that doesn’t mean I can’t do it down the road. I wish Henrik all the best and support him along the way.”
Despite strong rumours that the position was all but his in recent weeks, it turns out the 44-year old Donald was part of a four-man final shortlist alongside Stenson, Scotland’s Paul Lawrie and another Swede, Robert Karlsson.
As part of the thorough interview process, Donald made a 30-minute presentation to the selection committee, with Europe’s three most recent captains, Harrington, Darren Clarke and Thomas Bjorn all present. However, despite his attention to detail, the decision ultimately fell Stenson’s way with Donald under no illusions as to the size of the task ahead when it comes to bridging the gap with the American juggernaut.
“This year, we’re really going to have to motivate the players to come back from what was a tough defeat,” said Donald.
“That defeat itself will give the players plenty of motivation to pick up their games. They didn’t perform nearly as well as they knew they could have. They faced a strong U.S. team but for whatever reason the players didn’t perform that well. We need to address that and make it better for a run.”
Wisconsin was the second time Donald has played the Vice-Captain role in the Ryder Cup play having also been part of a winning team room at Le Golf National in 2018. Although headed for the role he really wanted by Major winner Stenson, Donald insists there’s no ill-will towards his former teammate, saying he’d help the boys in blue in any way he can should Stenson choose to enlist his services ahead of next year’s revenge mission.
“I believe I would. It’s not an easy job but it’s less stressful job than being a captain or a player. It’s a busy job. We have quite a lot we’re doing, but I love being part of a Ryder Cup,” Donald said.
“I thought I had a good chance this year. Hopefully, that’s not my chance gone. We have a lot of very worthy candidates, legends of the Ryder Cup, guys like Sergio, I don’t know how this whole Saudi thing is going to play out and if anyone is going to get knocked out because of that. That’s a little bit of a question mark.”