The European Ryder Cup committee has named a successor to Henrik Stenson, and they weren’t willing to wait for the champagne to dry on Stenson’s first LIV Golf win to do it.
On Monday, the committee named Luke Donald the new European Ryder Cup captain for next fall in Rome, ushering in the longtime PGA Tour pro and former World No. 1 into the head role just hours after Stenson completed his first LIV event.
“Some of my best experiences in golf have been in the Ryder Cup and I would not swap those for anything,” Donald said in a statement clearly directed at Stenson and other LIV Golf Ryder Cup hopefuls. “I love everything the Ryder Cup embodies, from the camaraderie and companionship of being part of a team, to the history of the contest, but most of all playing for something bigger than yourself.”
To date, the debate over the rival league’s eligibility in the biennial event has proven one of golf’s most controversial topics. LIV’s players have repeatedly used their press conference time to lobby for their inclusion in the Ryder Cup, while the tournament’s organizers have offered pointed criticisms of the new league and expressed doubt over changes to the eligibility requirements that would allow LIV players to compete. (The current U.S. and European Ryder Cup eligibility rules require players to compete in PGA Tour and DP World Tour events in order to earn the points necessary to qualify.)
Stenson, who was named the European captain in March for next fall’s matches in Rome, represents the clearest sign yet of the challenges facing members of the upstart league in earning their way to Rome. The 46-year-old Swede was stripped of his captaincy just days after his decision to join LIV Golf for a reported $40 million signing bonus.
“As many of you have already seen, unfortunately my decision to play in LIV events has triggered Ryder Cup Europe to communicate that it is not possible for me to continue in my role as Ryder Cup captain,” he later said in a statement. “While I disagree with the decision, for now it is a decision that I have to accept.”
Stenson went on to win his first LIV event on Sunday in Bedminster, taking a victory lap around Ryder Cup brass in the process.
“I guess we can agree I played like a captain,” he told reporters afterward.
Donald joins a European side in upheaval after last fall’s shellacking at Whistling Straits and this summer’s host of LIV defections from longtime stalwarts. In some ways, the LIV disruption could make life easier for team Europe, who will likely look to grow younger and hungrier in 2023. As part of his captaincy announcement, Donald confirmed that both existing European assistant captains — Thomas Bjorn and Edoardo Molinari — will remain in their posts.
Donald is undefeated in four Ryder Cup appearances (’04, ’06, ’10 and ’12), owning a 10-4-1 lifetime record in the event.
The 2023 Ryder Cup is currently scheduled for September 25-October 1, 2023 at Marco Simone Golf Club in Rome, Italy.