Reappointed European captain Luke Donald aims to join Tony Jacklin in Ryder Cup record books

It was never really in any doubt, was it? Not after he’d done such a brilliant job in Rome and instantly hearing his players calling for “two more years” as Europe celebrated winning back the Ryder Cup in Rome in September. It all came down to whether Luke Donald wanted to commit both time and energy to a second stint as captain and the answer is ‘yes’.

After a run of 12 one-term captaincies for the biennial event, the Englishman is Europe’s first repeat captain since Bernard Gallacher in 1995 and, on the back of a 16.5-11.5 success at Marco Simone Golf Club, he now has an opportunity in just under two years’ time at Bethpage Black in New York to join Tony Jacklin, who achieved the feat in 1985 and 1987, as the only European skipper to go back-to-back against the Americans.

In the immediate aftermath of the victory on the outskirts of the Italian capital, Donald admitted he could walk away with his head held high after adding a winning captaincy to four triumphs as a player in the transatlantic tussle and hand the reins over to someone else for what is likely to be the rowdiest Ryder Cup in history, especially if Tiger Woods is the man tasked with trying to win back the trophy for the US.

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However, knowing that the likes of Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm and Viktor Hovland were all keen for him to stay on and, equally, seeing two other members of his team, Ludvig Aberg and Nicolai Hojgaard, both win on the same day recently, the 45-year-old quickly wiped that thought from his mind. In doing so, the man who, of course, only got the job in the first place after Henrik Stenson was stripped of the post after joining the LIV Golf League is keeping his captain’s hat on.

Luke Donald led Europe to victory in this year's Ryder Cup and has now been re-appointed for the 2025 match at Bethpage Black in New York. Picture: Getty ImagesLuke Donald led Europe to victory in this year's Ryder Cup and has now been re-appointed for the 2025 match at Bethpage Black in New York. Picture: Getty Images
Luke Donald led Europe to victory in this year's Ryder Cup and has now been re-appointed for the 2025 match at Bethpage Black in New York. Picture: Getty Images

“The Ryder Cup experience for me in 2023 was an amazing one,” said Donald, speaking to reporters about his re-appointment, which was quickly ratified by Ryder Cup Europe executive director Guy Kinnings once it became apparent that there was no need to start a process to look at alternatives as a run of one-time captains, including Sam Torrance, Bernhard Langer, Ian Woosnam, Colin Montgomerie, Jose Maria Olazabal, Paul McGinley and Thomas Bjorn as winners as well, came to an end.

“I really enjoyed the whole journey. It's a full-time job and a lot of work, but the culture we created in that team and to see the team bond together and come out on top was very gratifying to me. Even when I was lifting the trophy on Sunday and hearing the guys shout, "two more years," in the back of my mind, I thought, I don't really want to let these guys down, but I still wanted some time to think about it.

“I'm very interested in trying to create some history. To be only the second European Ryder Cup captain to possibly go back-to-back is something that's very interesting to me and a great challenge and excites me. I love what the Ryder Cup represents. I've had so many amazing experiences as a Ryder Cup player and as a captain and to be given the honor to go back-to-back is very special for me. I think not often in life are you given great opportunities, and I really feel like this is an amazing opportunity.”

Donald led the way in the singles when Europe last won on US soil at Medinah in 2012. Since then, defeats have been tasted at Hazeltine and, most recently, a record 19-9 hammering at Whistling Straits. “Playing away is a different animal. It's a bigger challenge,” he added. “It's something that excites me and that's really the reason why I want to do this. All Ryder Cups are loud and boisterous and New York won't be any different and maybe even more so.

“But I played at Bethpage a few times and the New Yorkers love their sport and they love some jostling and all that kind of that goes with it. Obviously I have 22 months to try and figure out how to get the guys in the right frame of mind to deal with that and those are sort of the things that will be swishing around in my brain over the next few weeks.”

It’s likely that Donald will want to have six picks again and also have as many of his vice captains in Rome, where he was ably assisted by two former captains in Olazabal and Bjorn as well as the Molinari brothers, Edoardo and Francesco, and Nicolas Colsaerts, at his side again. He won’t be resting on his laurels, though, as he bids to emulate Catriona Matthew’s feat in the Solheim Cup in 2019 and 2021.

“My number one priority will be to create a great culture again, but I think playing away brings different approaches and different challenges, so there will be a different approach,” said the former world No 1. “I think just the way I've even done this in my individual career, it's always good to have that growth mindset. You always want to figure out how you can be better, how you can improve, and these next 22 months will be me trying to figure out that way to give ourselves a better chance to win away from home.”

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Kinnings described Donald’s captaincy in Rome as “calm, measured and meticulous” and reckons it will be the same again for a “considerable challenge” on US soil. As for whether repeat captains will become a trend, he said: “What we've done is taken the circumstances we have in front of us and got the right man at the helm for the goal of retaining the trophy in 2025. But I don't think that it should be read anything more than that.”



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