Losing European Legends 'A Shame' But Donald Now Has 'Clarity' Over Ryder Cup Selection

Luke Donald is sad to lose Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia but says at least he now has clarity over his Ryder Cup team

Luke Donald speaks to the media during the Ryder Cup 2023 Year to Go Media Event
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Losing three Ryder Cup legends, either from the playing or backroom team, is a huge blow for European captain Luke Donald, but he says at least now he has "a little more clarity" over his selection process.

The uncertainty over whether Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia could and should be involved in this year's Ryder Cup was clouding preparations, and would have continued had they not resigned their membership.

A few good performances on the course would have raised wildcard questions, while many would have suggested three Ryder Cup legends would be invaluable assets to have in the team room.

Clashes with players though, such as Garcia and Rory McIlroy's public falling out,  would have made for some awkward decisions for Donald, had the trio not resigned and taken it all out of his hands.

And although the European captain is sad, there was also a hint of relief as he can now head full-steam towards the Ryder Cup at Marco Simone Golf Club with no controversy hanging over him.

"It's sad we've got to this point but this was always a possibility," Donald told BBC Sport.

"I played with all three and they've been stalwarts of, and given a lot to, both the Ryder Cup and European Tour.

"It is a shame. They've got a lot of history when it comes to the Ryder Cup.

"Ultimately this is their choice and I wish them well. They feel like this was the best choice for them and now I've got choices to make that are best for me."

The 45-year-old can now concentrate on who will make his team without any chatter about the LIV Golf stars and their chances of playing or even just being involved in Rome.

Lee Westwood, Paul Casey, Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter share a joke at the 2021 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits

Losing Ryder Cup legends may actually work out for Luke Donald

(Image credit: Getty Images)

"I have a little more clarity now," Donald added. “This does give me clarity for the next five months.

"I know they're not an option to play in, or be any part of my team."

Of course, it remains a blow that the European team set-up won't have such huge experience at their disposal to help the players out.

Garcia is the record points scorer in Ryder Cup history, Poulter holds an unbeaten singles record from seven matches and Westwood appeared in 11 events - that's the type of experience money can't buy in the heat of a battle against Team USA.

But Donald, who parachuted into the captaincy after Henrik Stenson's defection to LIV Golf, is at least spared any conflict that could upset the Europeans' usual big strength - that team bond.

Taking over from Stenson already made it a tough job for Donald - although seemingly a blow, the loss of three Ryder Cup legends has just made his task a little bit easier.

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.