Earlier this year the DP World Tour debuted the Hero Cup featuring a 10-man GB & I team going up against a similar number of European players competing over three days in Abu Dhabi.
The Hero Cup was a mirror of the long-running Seve Trophy that brought European Tour players together in a Ryder Cup like atomsphere and helped prepare them for possible Ryder Cup-like competition should they qualify or be picked to represent Europe in a Ryder Cup.
Of the 20 players who teed-up January in the UAE capital just six were confirmed in Luke Donald’s European Ryder Cup side.
The six are Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Shane Lowry, Bob MacIntyre, Nicolai Hogjaard and Sepp Straka.
Those who competed in Abu Dhabi and who missed out on automatic European Team selection and the double-disappointment of not being afforded a Donald ‘wildcard’ pick were the likes of double PGA Tour winning Seamus Power, reigning Corales Puntacana champ Matt Wallace, Poland’s Adrian Meronk who has won three times on the DP World Tour between July 2022 and May 2023 and there’s also a four-time DP World Tour winner and the reigning HSBC Abu Dhabi winner Victor Perez of France.
Instead, they were over-looked in favour of Hogjaard and golfing super-star in the making Ludvig Aberg, with the 23-year old becoming the fastest European to go from turning pro to playing in a Ryder Cup. Before Aberg, it was Sergio Garcia who, after turning pro following the 1999 Masters then captured the Irish Open in May ahead of his Ryder Cup debut in September that year.
Of course, it’s the old saying that to play in a Ryder Cup or, for that matter, any team event you have to go out and earn selection, so in the simpliest of words the likes of Power, Wallace, Meronk and Perez did not do enough to win Donald’s favour.
But how must someone like Meronk, who captured three national opens – the Irish, Australian and the Italian, have felt upon receiving a call from Donald to advise he would not be returning to Rome just over four months after feeling on top of the world winning on the Ryder Cup host venue?
No, it was not easy for Donald, revealing he made some 25 calls to players who won his favour in being afforded a European Team cap and others like Meronk, Germany’s Yannick Paul, Wallace, Power and Perez who he had to politely let down in advising: ‘Sorry, but I cannot take you to Rome!”
“I made a lot of calls, about 25 in general, six, obviously to the captain’s picks, two to the guys that got in, Bob and Fitz yesterday and 16 or 17 others,” said Donald.
“I think there was a lot of people throughout the year that I was considering. Obviously by the time Sunday came around, that was narrowed down to a few; obviously Adrian being one of those for sure. He absolutely did a lot of great stuff throughout the year and was very much on my mind.
“But there were other players, too, that legitimately could have been there but in the end, I’m very happy with Nicolai, very happy with Ludvig, very happy with all the six picks to be honest that make up this 12.
“Yeah, those are tough decisions, and that comes with every Ryder Cup. There’s always going to be some people that miss out that really feel like they had a good chance and yeah, it just wasn’t to be for some of those”.