Away Ryder Cup Will Be 'A Different Animal' But Luke Donald Is Up For The Challenge - Even Facing Tiger Woods

Despite having to face a tough Bethpage course, a raucous American crowd and even possibly Tiger Woods as captain, Luke Donald is up for the challenge of being back-to-back European Ryder Cup captain

Luke Donald with the Ryder Cup at Marco Simone
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Luke Donald admits that playing an away Ryder Cup in New York in 2025 will be a "different animal" but taking on that challenge is exactly why he agreed to back-to-back stints as European captain.

Even as they celebrated with the trophy at Marco Simone, Europe's players were chanting "two more years" to encourage Donald to remain as captain for the return at Bethpage in 2025.

With the New York venue being notoriously boisterous it will be as tough as it gets trying to beat the USA, but taking on that challenge is exactly why Donald agreed to become the first back-to-back captain since Bernard Gallacher finished a three-tournament stretch in 1995.

"Playing away is a different animal. It's a bigger challenge," said Donald as he was unveiled as the repeat European skipper. "It's something that excites me and that's really the reason why I want to do this.

"As Rory said in the press, that's the ultimate to try to win away from home. Certainly done it twice as a player, but it's not easy and it hasn't been done many times in Ryder Cups - we have to go back to 2012 for it to be in the US.

"So it's not easy. We know that in any sport when you have the crowd behind you it's a big advantage and certainly I'll have to figure out ways to kind of counter that."

Donald knows exactly what to expect at Bethpage, and so his big focus will be a plan to help his players handle what will be the toughest atmosphere in the sport.

"Certainly that's part of the challenge," he said. "All Ryder Cups are loud and boisterous and New York won't be any different and maybe even more so. 

"But I played at Bethpage a few times and the New Yorkers love their sport and they love some jostling and all that kind of that goes with it. 

"Obviously I have 22 months to try and figure out how to get the guys in the right frame of mind to deal with that, with the crowd.

"It's the same every time you go away and New York might be a touch - a notch above that, but again, that's to be seen. I've got 22 months now to try to figure that and those were sort of the things that will certainly be swishing around in my brain over the next few weeks."

Will Tiger Woods be the next USA Ryder Cup captain?

Tiger Woods at the 2018 Ryder Cup at Le Golf National

Could Tiger Woods be the next USA Ryder Cup captain?

(Image credit: Getty Images)

As if facing the crowd wasn't enough, Donald could also be in the opposite corner to Tiger Woods, who is among the leading fancies to be home captain as the USA look to win back the Ryder Cup.

"The desire to win, whoever the captain is, is strong," Donald insisted as he played down talk of Woods being his opposite captain. "Obviously, Tiger's been mentioned as a possible candidate and we'll have to wait and see. If it's him great, if it's someone else, great.

"In the meantime, my role is to try and, again, start the preparations and try and figure out the best opportunity for us to be successful again come September in 2025 in New York. So that's really my focus.

"I've got to play a lot of times with Tiger in my career. I have great admiration for what he's done, what he's done in the game. You would think he was going to be a Ryder Cup captain at some point and if it's this time, great, if it's another time, great, but, again, it's not really my focus.

"Again, it's something a little bit out of my control, so I'm not really trying to think about it and once it happens, then we'll address it. But if it's Tiger or someone else, again, I'm looking forward to the challenge of being captain once more."

Donald says "playing away brings different approaches" in terms of dealing with the crowd and home course set-up, which is seen by some as a reason for so many big home victories in recent meetings.

And while fighting in the car park is perhaps not the best approach in New York, Donald says he loved Rory McIlroy's outburst in Rome as it showed the passion the event can provoke.

"We have to figure out the right approach and attitude to have in New York," he added. "But the whole Rory thing, we see this in every Ryder Cup.

"There's always passion that boils over. It's an amazingly passionate event and these things happen. Joey I think realized he had probably overstepped the mark and apologized pretty quickly afterwards. 

"But the fact that Rory was passionate about it just shows that he cares. And I love that, and I love the fact that we're there to win and it's okay to be passionate in this, in this environment.

"We had a talk that night and we used that fuel to our advantage. Certainly it wasn't anything that we were terribly worried about. 

"We weren't complacent at all, but we were excited about how fired up Rory was more than anything. So, nothing wrong with that, it happens in all sports, and especially a big part of the Ryder Cup."

Paul Higham

Paul Higham is a sports journalist with over 20 years of experience in covering most major sporting events for both Sky Sports and BBC Sport. He is currently freelance and covers the golf majors on the BBC Sport website.  Highlights over the years include covering that epic Monday finish in the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor and watching Rory McIlroy produce one of the most dominant Major wins at the 2011 US Open at Congressional. He also writes betting previews and still feels strangely proud of backing Danny Willett when he won the Masters in 2016 - Willett also praised his putting stroke during a media event before the Open at Hoylake. Favourite interviews he's conducted have been with McIlroy, Paul McGinley, Thomas Bjorn, Rickie Fowler and the enigma that is Victor Dubuisson. A big fan of watching any golf from any tour, sadly he spends more time writing about golf than playing these days with two young children, and as a big fair weather golfer claims playing in shorts is worth at least five shots. Being from Liverpool he loves the likes of Hoylake, Birkdale and the stretch of tracks along England's Golf Coast, but would say his favourite courses played are Kingsbarns and Portrush.