Four times a Ryder Cup player, Donald never tasted defeat in a team context, his winning record in all three formats (foursomes, four-balls and singles) adding up to a stellar 10-4-1 between 2004 and 2012. The 44-year-old Englishman also served as an assistant captain to Thomas Bjorn when Europe triumphed 17½-10½ at Le Golf National in 2018. So the former World No. 1 ticks a lot of biennial boxes, albeit those clearly impressive credentials were deemed inferior to the claims of Stenson when the Swede was named captain in March this year.
Still, Donald’s experience of all things Ryder will surely be put to good use almost immediately. With time relatively short, the new captain will be asked to think quickly on matters such as assistant captains, the team qualifying system that has yet to be announced and how many captain’s picks are to be added to the automatic qualifiers in order to complete the 12-man squad that will make the trip to Italy.
To that end, Bjorn and Edoardo Molinari were already in place as assistants to Stenson. Do they stay or do they go? How many assistants will Donald actually need or want in an age where five seems to have become the most favored figure? When exactly will qualifying begin? Will the previous “world” and “European” lists stay in place? If so, how many spots will be allocated to each? Or will another system be put in place? Could, for example, Donald decide to follow the lead of the International team skipper in the Presidents Cup and take the bulk of his side straight from the World Ranking?
“Luke is obviously a legitimate choice,” says Nicolas Colsaerts, who played for the victorious European team at the 2012 Ryder Cup. “There were only a few candidates, so his appointment is no surprise. He must have been close to getting the job earlier, when they gave it to Henrik. And yes, he’ll have to get moving fairly quickly with some of the decisions he has to make. In some ways there isn’t much urgency, but in others there is. From talking to some past captains, I know the job is going to take up a lot of his time.”
Colsaerts knows Donald has the experience but hopes that being the man out front will also bring out a quality in him that the public doesn’t often get to see. “He’s been a great player for Europe. He’s been a vice-captain. The challenge for him now is to show the wider world the personality only we players have so far seen behind closed doors,” Colsaerts says. “He needs to show the human qualities I know he has, which is why it is a good thing to appoint him now. He will have the time to show us the captain he wants to be and decides to be. For him, the will mean exploring new skills from an inspirational point of view.”
So many questions, some of which will likely be answered later today.