Luke Donald, Europe’s captain, believes the “pure sport” of the Ryder Cup means it stands high above the controversy that has dominated golf in recent times.
The creation of LIV Golf, with legal rows attached, has been the sport’s talking point in recent times. While the DP World Tour, PGA Tour and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund – which backs LIV – announced plans for peace in June, the golf world remains a highly volatile place.
European Ryder Cup icons Sergio García, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter will be absent from the event in Rome next weekend after their switch to LIV. Donald replaced Henrik Stenson as the captain after the Swede was essentially sacked from the role for joining the rebel circuit.
Donald is adamant the theme will change when Europe and the United States face off in Italy. “I think Ryder Cups have always been bigger,” said the former world No 1. “Certainly nothing to do with personal interests. It is the complete opposite. It’s always about having something more to play for, something more than just yourself. You are playing for other people, playing for your teammates, representing your families, representing where you are from. All that stuff.
“I have said that time and again, those are true, intrinsic motivators. That’s why you see the high emotions that you do in the Ryder Cup because it is pure, pure sport, with all the other stuff kind of taken out. The Ryder Cup will always be above all that stuff.”
Players are not paid for competing in Ryder Cups. Donald has made a conscious effort throughout his captaincy to avoid verbal jousting with anybody attached to LIV, preferring instead to be guided strictly by the rules and regulations of his Tour. Europe are seeking to avenge a record 19-9 defeat at Whistling Straits in 2021.
Donald’s sentiment chimes with that of Rory McIlroy. “I feel like this Ryder Cup is a bit like the 150th Open at St Andrews last year where all of that noise went away for the four days that we were playing,” said the Northern Irishman.
“There are some tournaments in our game that are bigger and more important than all of that stuff and obviously the Ryder Cup is right at the top of the list. At the end of the day, it’s about competition and about sport and competing at the highest level. That is exactly what the Ryder Cup is.”
Donald may have a slight concern over the form of Robert MacIntyre after the Scot, who qualified automatically for the European team, comprehensively missed the cut at the French Open on Friday. MacIntyre produced rounds of 71 and 77 in his last tournament before appearing in Rome. Nine bogeys and two double bogeys sealed MacIntyre’s fate at Le Golf National.