Make no bones about it, professional golf is embroiled in a civil war that threatens to change the very landscape of the game for years to come, especially if LIV Golf ringleader Greg Norman gets his way.
What started off as a few ageing tour pros defecting to the controversial tour to set up substantial retirement funds has now created full on chaos with a number of the sport’s biggest names heading to the 54-hole series.
From lawsuits to sportwashing and everything else in between, the breakaway tour has divided the players. The likes of Rory Mcilroy, who said “common sense prevailed” following the recent PGA Tour legal win that meant Matt Jones, Talor Gooch and Hudson Swafford – who all jumped ship to LIV – couldn’t play in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, has become even more highly regarded amongst his fellow peers.
While the PGA and DP World Tours both appear to be fighting a battle that has seemingly steered interest away from the tournaments and plunged many into the political aspect of the sport, it could be the Ryder Cup that suffers with the long-term ramifications of this sideshow.
Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia all looked nailed on to be future European Ryder Cup captains. When all four signed up for LIV, it threw the contingency plan into turmoil. With Henrik Stenson having been stripped of his captaincy after joining the rebel tour it begged the question, who next?
The answer was Luke Donald, who in some regards is a very astute pick. The 44-year-old was never on the losing side as a player and with his cool and relaxed demeanour best suited to his American counterpart in Zach Johnson, Rome 2023 promises to be another excellent event. What happens beyond then from a European perspective, however? I have racked my brain and came up with an alternative contingency plan that might, just might, stabilise team Europe for the foreseeable future.
Justin Rose – 2025
By the time of the 2025 edition, Rose will be 45. With the average age of the previous ten captains being 48, it is clear that the Englishman will be the most logical choice. Having missed out in 2021 in a somewhat surprising move by Padraig Harrington, especially with his experience and success in the USA throughout his career, it looks like his Ryder Cup playing career could be on the wind down.
His last win came in January 2019 and his one Major triumph (2013 US Open) is perhaps shy of his ability, but his ten PGA Tour wins prove that he can succeed on US soil. Rose is extremely popular over the pond and this would make him the perfect choice to lead the Europeans into battle at Bethpage Black.
Luke Donald could yet appoint him as a vice captain for 2023 if his form doesn’t improve and this could be massive advantage to his future captaincy hopes.
Padraig Harrington – 2027
This is a hill I’m willing to die on, but I think Harrington should get another shot at the captaincy. In 2027, Adare Manor will host the match and an Irish course deserves an Irish captain.
Whistling Straits was of course set up to favour Team USA last year but Harrington can set up Adare Manor to how he sees fit, and he’d have the huge benefit of a home crowd. The 19-9 defeat last time cannot be overshadowed but might the result have been different had it initially taken place in 2020? The Covid-19 pandemic caused the Ryder Cup to revert back to its original odd year format and the Irishman was perhaps slightly unlucky.
Might it be different a second time around? Who knows. It could go either way. Davis Love III won in 2016 following the collapse of his USA side in 2012, while Tom Watson returned in 2014 after a 21-year absence, but Paul McGinley outthought and outmanoeuvred his idol to seal a wonderful victory.
Francesco Molinari – 2029
The only Italian to win a men’s Major, the only player to win five out of five points in the Ryder Cup and never having appeared on a losing Ryder Cup side (2010, 2012 and 2018), Molinari fits the bill for an away tie in 2029 at Hazeltine.
The Italian may be diminutive in size but his achievements on the course certainly aren’t. His Annus Mirabilis came in 2018 where he won the BMW PGA Championship, broke through by winning his first PGA Tour title at the Quicken Loans National and then surged through the field on a dramatic final day at Carnoustie to seal the Claret Jug by two shots. Another big win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational a month before the 2019 Masters meant he was arguably the hottest golfer on the planet.
It could be argued that his final round collapse at Augusta National ruined any momentum he had and the 40-year-old hasn’t won since. He will be 47 in 2029 though and this is the perfect time to take the Ryder Cup reigns, with Bjorn, McGinley, Montgomerie, and Langer all enjoying a successful captaincy at the same age.
Sergio Garcia – 2031
Another contentious choice and one that will only be possible by what happens over the next few months. By initially signing with LIV, Garcia effectively ended his association with Team Europe, but a change of heart following the Open at St Andrews may have just kept the door ajar, for now at least.
The Spaniard decided he was going to stay on the DP World Tour, for the time being at least, and it’s on that basis that I include him as a potential captain in 2031.
At the age of 51, it’s highly unlikely that he will make the team as a player and as the top scoring Ryder Cup player in history he does deserve his shot, but then again, so did Sandy Lyle, Paul Lawrie etc.
His commitment to Team Europe over the years has been exemplary and if he sticks to his word and remains on the DP World Tour, then it won’t come as a surprise if he took the reigns for a home tie in nine years’ time.
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