Future Ryder Cup Captains - Who Will The Next Five Be?

Poulter at Bethpage? Tiger in Rome? We predict who the next five European and USA Ryder Cup captains will be...

Montage of Ian Poulter and Phil Mickeson celebrating during the Ryder Cup
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Poulter vs Mickelson at Bethpage? Tiger in Rome? We predict who the next five European and USA Ryder Cup captains will be...

We take a look at the prospective skippers from both sides, starting in Italy in 2023 to 2031

The next few Ryder Cups promise to be a bit of a bun fight in terms of captains, particularly from the European standpoint.

One of the most startling aspects of Europe’s team this year is that four of the players are in their forties – Paul Casey, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia – while four of the backroom team – Robert Karlsson, Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell and Henrik Stenson – are also north of 40.

And then there’s also Justin Rose.

For the Americans their oldest current player is Dustin Johnson while Steve Stricker’s vice-captains are Jim Furyk, Zach Johnson, Davis Love III, Phil Mickelson and Fred Couples.

Two of those, Love (2) and Furyk, have already done it and we can probably draw a line through their names.

And then there’s Tiger Woods.

The simple maths is that when you hit around the 45 mark and you’re no longer relevant as a player then you should be putting your hand in the air.

Europe are more prone to looking outside the major-winning box though Steve Stricker is the first American to lead the side without a big one on his CV so maybe it will be the best man for the job rather than the major champs.

Common sense and a look at Paul McGinley and Thomas Bjorn’s efforts should tell you that but common sense isn’t always the best commodity when picking Ryder Cup captains.

So, let the guessing games and speculation begin as we attempt to shoehorn a lot of big names into very few spaces. 

Future Ryder Cup Captains - Who Will The Next Five Be?

2023 Marco Simone, Italy

Europe: Lee Westwood

This year’s captaincy was always going to be between Harrington and Westwood and it’s just as well Harrington got it given the Worksop superstar has played his way onto his 11th team.

That’s not going to happen again so Whistling Straits will hopefully provide a fitting send-off and he can take the reins in Italy.

If we’re going to take things a step further then one or two Molinaris in his backroom team would be lovely.

United States: Tiger Woods

And up against Westwood may well be the proverbial GOAT.

Let’s pray his injuries won’t get in the way of this and he can take his place at the top table.

He’s already had a successful Presidents Cup term and he’s still playing a part in the planning of this year’s Ryder Cup but from a distance.

Last year his friend Kevin Na gave a whopping hint that Woods was being lined up to take over.

Then Covid and the car crash happened but 2023 is a way off and the measured Tiger would make the ideal away skipper.

But back to Na who tried to get himself out of a hole in May 2020: “I know the following Ryder Cup is in Italy and the captain I believe is Tiger Woods so that’s another thing I’m looking forward to. I head rumours!

"Am I starting a rumour? That what I heard. Am I not supposed to say anything! I won’t tell you who I heard them from but it wasn’t from him. It was from one of his friends!”

2025 Bethpage Black, New York, USA

Europe: Ian Poulter

He’ll be done playing and nudging 50 so what better way than to add another chapter to his Ryder Cup storybook.

If anyone fits the bill of an away skipper then it’s Poulter; he lives in the States, will love a bit of repartee with the fans and he’ll thrive on the lively New York atmosphere.

Europe will need a big presence for this one and they don’t come any bigger than Poulter – cue tired gags of postmaster and the like.

United States: Phil Mickelson

It’s going to be nuts, isn’t it?

Had things been a little different then Mickelson might have had a couple of US Open wins here but there might well be a happy ending for Mickelson and Bethpage should he lead the Americans to victory.

Social media is going to explode once these two get going.

Related: 12 of the best Ryder Cup pairings in history

2027 Adare Manor, Ireland

Europe: Graeme McDowell

G-Mac at Adare Manor in 2027 seems a nailed-on match

This almost seems like the easiest fit of the lot.

One strange quirk of McDowell’s career is that he has ‘only’ played in four Ryder Cups and none since 2014 but, in that period, he won three times and contributed 9/15 points.

The McIlroy alliance never quite took off but there were plenty of highs like the winning point at Celtic Manor and the beautiful pairing with Victor Dubuisson.

McDowell is the complete package – charismatic, ballsy, eloquent and fun – and he’s serving his time nicely with these vice-captaincy gigs.

United States: Zach Johnson

If we are to keep going down the major winner path then Johnson will likely get a go.

He must be the most understated Masters-Open champion but he’s been doing his apprenticeship in the time-honoured way by acting as a vice-captain in 2018 and this year.

People like him, he’s supposedly funnier than most of us imagine and, after the hullabaloo of Tiger and Phil, it will be a gentler affair.

2029 Hazeltine, Minnesota, USA

Europe: Justin Rose

Time is marching on a bit now for some of Europe’s big guns and a lot of big names will begin to fall by the wayside.

We’re still waiting for Rose, Garcia, Stenson and Casey to lead us into battle and, given that Stenson will be 53 by this time, we will have to strike a line through his chances.

This is a genuine shame as he ticks every box but that is the nature of a dominant era of European golf.

Casey will also likely be overlooked and his Ryder Cup career will read as 2004-06-08-18-21, which is bizarre though a good reflection of his longevity.

Let’s keep Sergio back for a home match and put things into a very safe pair of hands in Rose.

He’s twice now missed out as a player but he’s added plenty to the competition, says the right things and is, in his own way, very passionate about the matches.

United States: Brandt Snedeker

Things are getting a bit awkward now and the cupboard is looking a bit bare.

For whatever reason Fred Couples never got the nod and he’ll now be pushing 70 so where to go?

Dustin Johnson will be about the right age but that’s as far as his credentials and his interest probably stretch.

That’s not meant as a slight towards Johnson who probably plays the media, and the mental on-course game, better than anyone, it’s more that you just can’t picture it.

So we’re looking at Bubba, who would be possibly even weirder, or a safe pair of hands like Webb Simpson.

But let’s take a punt and go for Snedeker who comes across tremendously and he might just be the easy-going character to keep a light hand on the reins.

Related: 6 of the best Ryder Cups in history

2031 Venue, Europe TBC

Europe: Sergio Garcia

We don’t even know where the Ryder Cup is going to be in 10 years’ time let alone sticking our finger in the air to speculate over who’s going to lead Europe.

Sweden are yet to stage a Ryder Cup so that would obviously bring Stenson back in though there has been talk about The Belfry, where the PGA headquarters are, getting a fifth go as well as the likes of the London Club.

There’s even talk, whisper it gently, of taking it to the UAE.

All being well we’ll discover who gets it before the year is out.

Luke Donald would then be a frontrunner but we would still be light of a Sergio captaincy and it would be 10 years since his likely last appearance.

Maybe he’ll get an earlier go at things, and switch with Rose? The venue will be key to who gets which match. 

United States: Stewart Cink

We’re now getting into the realms of fantasy land – what’s Jeff ‘Boom Baby’ Overton up to in 2031?

He showed in a split second as much passion as anyone from the States.

Maybe Tiger or Phil will be brought back for a second spell – speaking of which how strange is is that Paul Azinger only had one stint? – or will the Americans think outside the box and pick a genuine leader of men and dispense with the former player route?

Again, let’s play things safe and cover our bases with the man who played on five Ryder Cups (and only won one).

Mark Townsend
Contributing editor

Mark has worked in golf for over 20 years having started off his journalistic life at the Press Association and BBC Sport before moving to Sky Sports where he became their golf editor on skysports.com. He then worked at National Club Golfer and Lady Golfer where he was the deputy editor and he has interviewed many of the leading names in the game, both male and female, ghosted columns for the likes of Robert Rock, Charley Hull and Dame Laura Davies, as well as playing the vast majority of our Top 100 GB&I courses. He loves links golf with a particular love of Royal Dornoch and Kingsbarns. He is now a freelance, also working for the PGA and Robert Rock. Loves tour golf, both men and women and he remains the long-standing owner of an horrific short game. He plays at Moortown with a handicap of 6.