Donald: “It will be the first Ryder Cup I’ve been involved without Sergio”

Mark McGowan

Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Luke Donald at the 2018 Ryder Cup (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

When the 2023 Ryder Cup gets underway at Rome’s Marco Simone Golf Club in just over a fortnight’s time, it will be the first staging in more than a quarter of a century in which Sergio Garcia won’t be part of the European team room.

The 43-year-old Spaniard made his Ryder Cup debut in 1999 having twice been a Junior Ryder Cup player in ’95 and ’97 and, 2010 aside, has either qualified or been selected as a wildcard for every Ryder Cup that’s followed.

Upon joining the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour last year, Garcia’s Ryder Cup days were numbered though such is his history with the event, he still received a call from Luke Donald to inform him that he wouldn’t be part of this year’s event either in a playing capacity or as a vice-captain as he’d been to Colin Montgomerie at Celtic Manor when his game had fallen off a cliff in 2010.


“We’ve chatted a little bit and he certainly wishes the team all the best. It’s different for me (too),” Donald said Monday after taking his entire team, caddies and backroom staff for a practice session at Marco Simone.

Garcia, who holds the Ryder Cup points record at 28.5, played in 10 Ryder Cups from 1999 to 2021 and won three points in his last appearance as the United States trounced Europe at Whistling Straits.

Three of Donald’s six picks will make their Ryder Cup debuts as Donald looks not just to Rome, but towards New York’s Bethpage which hosts in 2025 and Adare Manor in 2027.

“We’ve known about Ludvig for a long time,” Donald said of the 23-year-old Ludvig Aberg who is less than four months into his professional career. “He obviously came out to the professional circuit and picked it up pretty quickly, some very strong finishes. He’s a tremendous driver of the golf ball, which is really a strength around Marco Simone and he’s already fitting in very well with the team.”

Aberg, along with fellow rookie Nicolai Højgaard and the red-hot Viktor Hovland form the Scandinavian section of the side, with Hovland coming off an incredible season that was capped by winning the FedEx Cup title and the accompanying $18 million last month.

“Extremely big wins,” Donald said. “We have four of the last six FedEx Cup winners on our team. So these are positives that I’ll be talking to the guys about and keep pumping them up. But we won’t take the U.S. lightly. They’re a very strong team and we’re still hurting from two years ago.”

Between No. 2 Rory McIlroy, No. 3 Jon Rahm and No. 4 Hovland, Europe has three of the top four players in the world rankings.

“We have 12 very hot players, to be honest,” Donald said. “I’m very happy with my 12.”

With McIlroy, Shane Lowry and Tyrrell Hatton, vice-captains Thomas Bjørn and Edoardo Molinari and captain Donald himself all playing at last week’s Irish Open, they travelled together on Sunday evening, whilst Rahm, Hovland and Sepp Straka all arrived early on Sunday before the two-day training camp to visit the Colosseum.

All 12 of the European team members and the entire backroom panel with the exception of José María Olazábal are in the field for the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth this week and will no doubt have additional gatherings as they look to increase the team bond ahead of their attempt to recapture the Ryder Cup.

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