The messy backdrop to the Ryder Cup scene has been further demonstrated by the inability of Luke Donald, the newly appointed European captain, to clarify whether LIV rebels will be allowed to feature in Rome next September. The Englishman, 44, was installed by Ryder Cup Europe after Henrik Stenson was in effect sacked from the role for being coaxed by the Saudi Arabian-backed LIV tour.
Stenson’s victory at Bedminster on Sunday raised the prospect that he could feature again for Europe against the US as a player. Sergio García has said he will hold off from resigning from the DP World Tour, formerly the European Tour, until the Ryder Cup situation is clarified. Key to that is a legal battle over whether LIV golfers can retain European status; until that is resolved, Donald finds himself in an invidious position.
The former world No 1’s unveiling was duly dominated by LIV themes. “Obviously part of being a captain is to create a strong 12-man unified team and I’ll be working on that over the next 14 months,” Donald said.
“I’m not here really to talk about LIV and whether they will be eligible or not. That’s to be seen and kind of a hypothetical question. But over the next few months hopefully we’ll have some clarity on that situation and we can start making some decisions about that when it becomes more clear.”
Pressed on whether he sought guidance on whom he may or may not be able to pick, Donald said: “There’s a legal situation going on. I don’t think that situation’s going to get resolved any time soon. So until that does, I can’t really comment on it because there’s no real answer.
“Given the opportunity to be a Ryder Cup captain is one of the greatest honours I can have in my golfing career. I’m extremely excited about this opportunity and I plan to make the most of it.”
Guy Kinnings, Europe’s Ryder Cup director, suggested LIV golfers may well remain in the qualifying process but subject to a courtroom ruling. He said: “Then the points will run but I suspect they will be, much as they are with the PGA of America, listing players that are mentioned but subject to eligibility.”
Donald won all four Ryder Cup events he featured in as a player. He has also served as a European vice‑captain twice. He insisted there is no bad blood whatsoever between him and Stenson after the Swede’s pivot to LIV. “We have spoken,” Donald said. “Everything is totally fine between us. We’re friends. Next time I see him I’ll congratulate him [on the LIV victory]. He obviously played great and fair play to him.
“I have signed a contract and I intend to see that through. I’m giving you my word that I will be here for the next 14 months. I’m excited about this opportunity, I really am. The Ryder Cup means so much to me and I’m not going to take this lightly.”
Donald confirmed Thomas Bjørn and Edoardo Molinari, who had been named as vice-captains by Stenson, will continue in their positions. “It was essential that Thomas and Edoardo remained part of the team,” Donald said. “They were the first two calls I made once I got the nod to be captain and I’m delighted that they are fully on board.”