6 Key Questions For Luke Donald Ahead Of The Ryder Cup

European captain Luke Donald will have plenty on his mind ahead of the 2023 Ryder Cup

Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy at the 2021 Ryder Cup
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Luke Donald is all set to captain Team Europe on home soil at the 2023 Ryder Cup.

The former World No.1 and four-time Ryder Cupper will lead out his European side at Marco Simone looking to regain the trophy after a record defeat at Whistling Straits two years ago.

Since then, there's been turmoil in the world of golf with the emergence of LIV Golf and a huge loss of experience for the Europeans. Henrik Stenson was briefly captain before being stripped and the likes of Garcia, Poulter, Westwood and McDowell will play no part in this year's match.

Still, there are plenty of positives for Europe - especially with the form of Viktor Hovland and prowess of McIlroy and Rahm - so what considerations will Donald have for Rome?

How will Europe cope without Poulter and Garcia?

Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter embrace at the 2018 Ryder Cup

Garcia and Poulter have forged the backbone of the European team for the past two decades

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Had it not been for the emergence of LIV Golf and the sport's civil war, Sergio Garcia would have been one of the first names on the team sheet. The Spaniard comes alive in the Ryder Cup and is the record points scorer. His partnership with Jon Rahm was excellent at Whistling Straits two years ago but Rahm will be without his countryman this time around.

Then there's Ian Poulter, too. Perhaps he wouldn't have qualified or justified a wildcard pick this year but he would have played a role as a vice captain if not.

Europe are without lots of experience this year, with Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, Martin Kaymer and the replaced captain Henrik Stenson also all out due to their ties with LIV.

There is still plenty of experience, though, with McIlroy, Rahm and Rose all experienced Ryder Cuppers, former World No.1s and Major winners.

Can he get the best out of McIlroy?

Rory McIlroy at the 2021 Ryder Cup

McIlroy was disappointed after delivering one point from his four matches in 2021

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy will come into this year's Ryder Cup off the back of an excellent season so all signs will point to a positive return for the Northern Irishman who will have to step up as Europe's on-course leader.

McIlroy will make his seventh Ryder Cup appearance this year after a poor showing in Wisconsin two years ago that resulted in him breaking down in tears after winning his one and only point in the Sunday singles.

He lost all three of his doubles matches heavily, two by 4&3 and one by 5&3, and he was even rested in the Saturday four balls to miss a session for the first time in his career.

Finding him the right partner this time around will be crucial to get the best out of Europe's talisman.

What about his partnerships?

Shane Lowry and Tyrrell Hatton hug after winning a point at the Ryder Cup

The pairing of Lowry and Hatton will surely return, but who else?

(Image credit: Getty Images)

It will likely all be done by stats, but for us not privy to those the partnerships for Europe are set to be very interesting this time around.

Rory McIlroy played with Ian Poulter, albeit unsuccessfully last time, as well as a losing game with Shane Lowry, while Jon Rahm forged that superb team with Garcia.

McIlroy has been paired up with rookies in numerous Ryder Cups. Lowry in 2021, Olesen in 2018 and both Sullivan and Pieters in 2016. We might see that again this year with him being paired with someone like MacIntyre, Hojgaard or Straka.

Tommy Fleetwood and Viktor Hovland played twice together at Whistling Straits so that could be one to try out again, while the pairing of Lowry and Tyrrell Hatton will probably also be one that reappears.

Matt Fitzpatrick has played two Ryder Cups but has never played a four balls match, and his foursomes partner Lee Westwood won't be there this year. The 2022 US Open champion will surely finally get a game in the four balls, so who will he go with?

Then there's Justin Rose returning after missing 2021, but he won't have his usual foursomes partner Henrik Stenson.

Who does he pair Jon Rahm with?

Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia embrace at the 2021 Ryder Cup

Garcia and Rahm won all three of their matches together in 2021

(Image credit: Getty Images)

As mentioned above, Rahm will be without Sergio Garcia by his side this year in a huge blow for Team Europe.

The Spanish duo won all three of their matches together last time in what was the biggest positive to come out of a forgettable week for Team Europe.

Rahm has been vocal about how he'd love to continue that partnership but it simply won't be happening this year after Garcia left for LIV and gave up his DP World Tour membership. Garcia reportedly tried to pay his DP World Tour fine and make the team but it was too little, too late.

So, who will Rahm play with? We'll find out on Friday of Ryder Cup week when Donald announces the teams at the Opening Ceremony.

Until then, it's anyone's guess.

Will this new team Europe gel?

Four European players line up for pictures ahead of the 2021 Ryder Cup

It's set to be a very different team this time around

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The experience of Garcia, Poulter and Westwood will be missed and there's a fairly high turnover in players this time around.

Garcia, Poulter, Westwood, Casey and Wiesberger will not be there, meaning not only will the pairings look very different, but the team room will feel different, too.

It's not exactly going to be a team lacking in experience, with McIlroy, Rahm, Fitzpatrick, Hovland, Rose, Fleetwood, Lowry and Hatton all coming in with Ryder Cup experience. Then there's vast experience from the vice captains to the caddies and everyone else behind the scenes.

It's certainly going to have a different feel without the LIV players, though, both in the playing and vice captain setup.

Can Europe handle the pressure?

The first tee at the 2018 Ryder Cup in Paris

Europe will have a strong team and huge support from the home crowds

(Image credit: Getty Images)

In many ways, Europe are the underdogs this year following the record defeat last time out at Whistling Straits and the Americans' strong world rankings. The oddsmakers certainly think that, at least.

The young Team USA were imperious two years ago and initial thoughts following 2021 were that the Europeans had an extremely tough job on their hands to stop a period of American dominance.

However, two years on and Europe's side is looking very strong, and with the home support and the fact that USA haven't won on away soil in 30 years, there's set to be plenty of pressure on Luke Donald's side to win the cup back.

Europe's team contains three of the top four players in the world (Rahm, McIlroy and Hovland) who will be expected to lead their continent to victory.

The atmosphere in 2018 at Le Golf National was incredible and there's no reason to think it won't be just as good, or even better, this time around with tickets practically sold out and Europeans set to travel from all over the continent to cheer on the home side.

The cauldron-like atmopshere should help the home team, but the weight of expectation from the European fans will also add pressure to perform.

Elliott Heath
Senior Staff Writer

Elliott Heath is our Senior Staff Writer and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news, features, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as four Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. His first Open was in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, when he walked inside the ropes with Jordan Spieth during the Texan's memorable Claret Jug triumph. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Western Gailes, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 2-5. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!

Elliott is currently playing:

Driver: Titleist TSR4

3 wood: TaylorMade SIM2 Max

Hybrid: TaylorMade SIM Max

Irons: Mizuno MP5 4-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x