Hero Cup potential wasted and provides no Ryder Cup tonic for Donald

Ronan MacNamara
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Captains Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood at the Hero Cup (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

Finally. Finally, at long last, the wait is over, the time has come, it’s here. The Hero Cup… Boriiiiiiiing (yawns and checks watch). 

First and foremost, why do the DP World Tour have to make everything so plastic? Just name it the Seve Trophy, keep the legacy and the history and be done with it. You can have your Hero’s, Cazoo’s and your ISPS Handa’s for the rest of the year.

It feels incredibly artificial and basic. It feels like you can’t move for fear of Hero or Cazoo splattering their name next to a tournament. What’s next, the Cazoo Ryder Cup? 

Like much of the DP World Tour since the COVID-19 pandemic, this week’s team event between Great Britain and Ireland and Continental Europe feels thrown together at the last minute and shoehorned into no man’s land slot in the schedule.  

Looking back at previous Seve Trophy editions, in particular the final 2013 showpiece, it was clear that this initiative had lost its gravitas. Reflecting on that year, Paul Lawrie was taking a swipe at Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter for qualifying but not playing in Paris. 

A decade on and things aren’t much different with Great Britain and Ireland captain Tommy Fleetwood the only player to have represented the side in 2013, the same goes for Continental Europe skipper, Francesco Molinari. 

It’s been a whirlwind couple of years for European golf since the record-breaking defeat at the hands of a youthful USA side in Whistling Straits in the 2021 Ryder Cup and the defecting of some senior pros to LIV Golf has rather forced Europe’s hand to discard the likes of Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Paul Casey, Henrik Stenson, Graeme McDowell and Sergio Garcia from their thoughts for Rome in September – although all are eligible for selection unlike USA players. 

A far as team Europe goes for September, I view Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Matt Fitzpatrick – who has an atrocious Ryder Cup record – Tommy Fleetwood, Shane Lowry and Viktor Hovland as the six automatic picks with Tyrrell Hatton nailed on for a Captain’s pick from Luke Donald. 

Of the Great Britain and Ireland team competing this week, Seamus Power and Robert MacIntyre are the two realistic contenders for a wildcard if they can’t earn an automatic selection while I feel the majority of the Continental Europe side will have a wildcard pick as their main goal for 2023. 

More than likely Donald will have five spots on the team up for grabs with the likes of Thomas Detry, Molinari, Thomas Pieters and Alex Noren the main contenders to earn a place at Marco Simone in September. 

But also on that team is the talented PGA Tour winner, Sepp Straka, and Irish Open and Australian Open champs Adrian Meronk and Victor Perez. 

Rasmus Hojgaard was a late withdrawal due to injury and he was laughably replaced by his brother Nicolai – I suppose when you have spent all the money on gear and nametags etc you might as well!

Unlike previous Ryder Cup editions where the European team virtually picked itself with the exception of maybe one or two places, a lot is up in the air for Team Europe this year and I feel the potential of the Hero Cup has been disregarded. 

Given it’s a Ryder Cup year and with a relatively inexperienced European side set to tee it up in September, I feel this would have been a good learning curve for Donald and a chance to gain some clarity over potential pairings and rookie selections. 

I’m sure he will have a keen eye on any Lowry/Power pairing as he will do Hatton/Fleetwood, while MacIntyre being paired up with the talented Ewen Ferguson who can’t be ruled out of the reckoning for September in an all-Scotsman affair is an interesting prospect. 

Looking at the Continental Europe side, the aforementioned names will undoubtedly be pushing long into the summer as well. Is the third week in January the best place for this competition? No. The DP World Tour should have been more prudent and scheduled the event for May or June. 

I feel a late spring/summer slot in the schedule would have brought a touch more meaning to the week rather than a freewheeling opportunity to dust off the winter cobwebs ahead of the opening DP World Tour event next week. 

There was a real opportunity to blood some players in a Ryder Cup format with this competition, but I feel it being so early in the year, players won’t be sharp enough for Donald to really learn anything and come away with any selection headaches and the standard won’t be as good as it could have been. 

Looking at social media videos, it all seems very relaxed and too happy chappy for my liking. A few months down the line and with the Ryder Cup on the horizon, this could have carried a little more significance and needle with the opportunity to impress Donald at a key stage of the season.

GAA heads will understand when I say it all feels a little O’Byrne Cup for me. Yeah it’ll be interesting to see Power and Lowry pair up from an Irish point of view and the Continental Europe team does boast some mercurial talents, but it’s as close to a pre-season feel as golf can get.

Does anyone really want to be golfing in January anyway? 

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