Luke Donald urges ‘fearless’ Europe to ‘write their own history’ at Ryder Cup

Team Europe Captain Luke Donald during the Ryder Cup Opening Ceremony at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club, Rome, Italy. (Photo: David Davies)
Team Europe Captain Luke Donald during the Ryder Cup Opening Ceremony at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club, Rome, Italy. (Photo: David Davies)

While the pairings of Jon Rahm and Tyrrell Hatton and Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood came as no surprise, Donald also handed Ludvig Aberg and Sepp Straka an early taste of the action at Marco Simone.

The fiery pairing of Rahm and Hatton will face world number one Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns in the first foursomes match, with Aberg and Viktor Hovland up against Max Homa and Open champion Brian Harman.

Straka and Shane Lowry were paired in match three versus Rickie Fowler and Collin Morikawa, with McIlroy and Fleetwood up against arguably the USA’s strongest pair in Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay.

Donald would not take the bait when asked if the 12 players were his gladiators, but said: “I would say they’re very fearless.

“They’re extremely good golfers. We’ve had a great few days together.

“The atmosphere in the team room is fantastic. Everyone is in good spirits.

“They’re motivated. There’s a lot of good energy. Everyone feels like they’re playing well.

“I’m very happy with the progress of my team. They seem to have come into a lot of form the last few months and they’ve continued that in big tournaments.

“I just want to get to that first tee and watch my guys get started. It’s been an amazing build-up.

“It’s been an amazing journey. Couldn’t be more excited and happy for these 12 guys to go out and enjoy this week because I remember I had so many fond memories as playing and being a vice-captain.

“As a captain it’s a little bit more of a stressful job, but I’m excited. I’m excited for the guys just to take this all in, enjoy it, and try and write their own history this week.”

Speaking about Rahm and Hatton, who halved their only match together in the 19-9 defeat at Whistling Straits two years ago, Donald added: “They are very passionate.

“I think Jon feeds off a playing partner with similar kind of fire and passion. He wants to feel like he’s out there with a team-mate that’s really engaged with him. Tyrrell really fits that bill.

“The Ryder Cup means a lot to both of them. Jon was really inspired by the Ryder Cup back in ’97, it was the first time he really came to golf.

“It’s not just about winning majors, it’s about coming to Ryder Cup and contributing to European wins.”

United States captain Zach Johnson sprang a surprise by leaving the successful pair of Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas on the sidelines, with two of this year’s major winners – Brooks Koepka and Wyndham Clark – also sitting out.

“Well, the gist of it is we’ve got 12 guys,” Johnson said when asked to explain the absence of Spieth and Thomas.

“Unfortunately, I can’t play all 12 each session. So at some point somebody’s got to sit. It’s a golf course that demands a lot out of you physically.

“Not only that, but the eight guys I have down on paper are the ones that we feel best put us in the position to get off to a great start obviously.

“I have the utmost confidence in these eight and the utmost confidence in Jordan and Justin. I know we’re talking about a great tandem, but it’s a situation where it’s not about their form.

“They’re playing great. It’s really just a matter of trying to dissect all five sessions.”