- Alistair Tait
They Can’t All Be Ryder Cup Captain
Lee Westwood will captain the next European Ryder Cup team in Rome.
I didn’t make this statement up. It seems to be accepted fact. Here’s another accepted fact: Ian Poulter will captain the 2025 European team in New York.
Most will have no problem if those two scenarios play out. However, Europe has an embarrassment of riches waiting in the wings to step into the skipper’s role.
Here’s the problem: some great candidates are going to miss out. They can’t all be Ryder Cup captain.
Look at the quality on offer in Padraig Harrington’s back room staff at Whistling Straits. Henrik Stenson, Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald, Robert Karlsson (pictured) and Martin Kaymer all served as vice-captains. All have a wealth of experience. All are potentially great captains.
Throw in Sergio Garcia and Paul Casey. They played this year but, at 41 and 44 respectively, are obviously approaching the end of their Ryder Cup playing days.
How about Justin Rose? Many argue he should have been on this year’s team. He, too, has the makings of a brilliant Ryder Cup captain.
Those three could all be suitable contenders to replace Poulter for the 2027 match at Adare Manor.
Rory McIlroy anyone? The four-time major winner may be just 32 but he’s not a million years away from the captaincy himself. He’ll also slot into the queue to lead a European team in the not too distant future.
If we go on the one and done theory of European captaincy, and the unwritten rule skippers have to still be in touch with their players, i.e., not too old that they’ve stopped competing against them, then one thing is obvious: not every name mentioned above is going to captain the European team.
So, who misses out? Good question.
Here’s another thing: not every player with a glowing Ryder Cup record or great individual playing career achievements turns out to be a great leader of men. Everyone expected Nick Faldo to make a brilliant Ryder Cup captain but he was a disaster at Valhalla in 2008. Darren Clarke? He looked out of his depth at Hazeltine in 2016.
Whisper it, but there are those currently pointing fingers at Padraig Harrington as partly responsible for Europe’s lopsided loss.
I’m not one of them. True, he did get decisions wrong, but all captains do, even successful ones. As I noted yesterday, Europe lost because this American team was just too strong, especially on the greens. Westwood himself said:
“We were just outplayed and out-putted.”
You can almost guarantee, as per the opening two paragraphs, the European Tour’s tournament committee will probably go for the obvious and select Westwood and Poulter for the next two matches.
If the above happens then many of the aforementioned are going to miss out. Stenson (45), Donald (43), McDowell (42) and Rose (41) are all in their forties. Sergio Garcia’s playing days might be over in 2027. He, too, may be a potential candidate for that match.
Karlsson is 52. He’s just served his second stint as vice-captain after two times as a player with a 1-2-4 won, lost, halved record. He is a former European Tour number one, becoming the first Swede to win the Harry Vardon Trophy when he topped the 2008 Race to Dubai. He’s also one of the most erudite and well-respected players on the European circuit. He’d make an excellent Ryder Cup captain. However, he probably has nae chance of the job because of the logjam in the queue to lead Europe in the biennial match.
The European Tour has some hard thinking to do on future Ryder Cup captaincs, because they can’t all get the job.
That’s Europe’s loss and America’s gain.
#JustSaying: “People keep coming up and saying, ‘Are you going to be the captain in Rome?’ I’d prefer to play but Father Time’s not kind, is he?” Lee Westwood