Europe needed the Hero Cup to prepare for Ryder Cup, says captain Luke Donald

Abu Dhabi, Jan 12: Luke Donald has experienced a winning feeling every time he has been on the European Ryder Cup team. And now he is looking forward to captaining the Ryder Cup team in Rome this year. He relishes the opportunity of being able to see all the probables – apart from the sure-shot members he will have on his team  at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Italy.

Meeting the media ahead of the inaugural Hero Cup, the 2023 Ryder Cup captain, Donald said he was happy to have a chance to see a lot of players who could be on the European team. The event is an all-European version with 10-member teams of Great Britain & Ireland and Continental Europe clashing over three days at the 7,444 yard long par-72 Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

The event itself is a brainchild of Donald, who worked it out. The three-day match  will be a mix of fourballs, foursomes and singles.

The leading four European stars, who are not here this week in Abu Dhabi Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Matt Fitzpatrick  and Viktor Hovland are certainties for Rome. Add to that Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari. So, the other six should come from the 20 players, who will be on view this week.

Agreeing that the United States always had the President’s Cup to work out and plan team combinations ahead of Ryder Cup competitions, the former World No. 1 said, “Yeah we badly needed a competition like this (Hero Cup).”

He went on, “Yeah, we didn’t enjoy losing last year at Whistling Straits, and losing pretty badly. We know the US are going to be very strong, they seem a little bit younger, they seem a little bit more unified. You know, and they do have the President’s Cup to work on partnerships.”

“So, I think it’s vital to have the Hero Cup on the schedule. So the years we’re not playing Ryder Cups, we can start testing some of this out. So, yes it is great to have this event.”

Donald has been a player on four winning teams in 2004, 2006, 2010 and 2012. He has also experienced many other team competitions like the World Cup, which he won with Paul Casey in 2004. He has also been on winning Eisenhower and Walker Cup teams, so he wants to add the Ryder Cup to that extensive list.

He said, “This is my first kind of opportunity to oversee a team event before the Ryder Cup. So it’s a nice way to kind of, you know, work through some of those things, you know, there’ll be some mistakes made this week and, and there’ll be a lot of good things going on behind the scenes where it’s a great opportunity for me to be around some guys that have a great potential to be in Rome; get to know them better, and to see how they’re performing on the golf course.”

Talking of pressure, he added, “You know, there’s nothing like when the gun goes off tomorrow, how they perform, you know, we don’t play a lot of match play in general these days, we don’t play a lot of foursomes were alternate shots. So you know, just seeing how they react, testing out some possible partnerships that might stand the test of time.”

Of the two captains, Tommy Fleetwood and Francesco Molinari, he said they had given a lot of input in getting the Great Britain & Ireland and Continental European teams. Asked how much of an input came in from Molinari and Fleetwood, who combined so well at Ryder Cup, Donald said, “A decent amount (of input). You know, I think they were very honoured. And they felt very, very happy that I asked them to be playing Captains. So it’s a little bit of a different role to previous years. Obviously, you know, both still want to play multiple Ryder Cups.”

“I think it’s good to involve them to start understanding some of these things, because you never know, down the road that these two gentlemen might be captains one day. We have tried to talk a lot about the pairings and get their feedback. I’ve taken a lot of that on board, (but) they get to choose all the line-ups just like a Ryder Cup. I’m trying to give them some opportunities to take charge for themselves.”

The event will be telecast live in India on 1Sport from 12.30 pm IST.

Day 1 Fourballs

Pairings (Great Britain & Ireland first v Continental Europe)

  1. 11:05: Tommy Fleetwood & Shane Lowry vs Alex Noren & Thomas Pieters
  2. 11:20: Tyrrell Hatton & Jordan Smith vs Antoine Rozner & Thomas Detry
  3. 11:35: Callum Shinkwin & Matt Wallace v Guido Migliozzi & Victor Perez
  4. 11:50: E Ferguson & & Richard Mansell vs Francesco Molinari & N Højgaard
  5. 12:05: Robert Macintyre & Seamus Power vs A Meronk & Sepp Straka


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