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Predicting Europe's Next Three Ryder Cup Captains

By: | Mon 04 Oct 2021

Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography

MUCH has already been said and written about potential successors to Padraig Harrington as Europe’s next Ryder Cup captain. I am going to put my head on the chopping block and predict the names of Europe’s next three skippers.

2023, Marco Simone Golf Club, Rome - Lee Westwood

Lee Westwood

The Englishman will be 50 years old in 2023 and has accepted that his Ryder Cup playing days are almost certainly over. “I want to play again, but Father Time is not kind,” he said. He has played for Europe 11 times and he has already made his play for the job, saying that he wants a greater say in the way the team is selected. And that means he will be looking for at least four wild cards in Italy. He says that the current selection process does not guarantee that Europe fields its strongest side and when you consider the number of Europeans who now play most of their golf on the PGA Tour, he definitely has a point. As one of Thomas Bjorn’s vice-captains at Le Golf National in 2018, Westwood knows what it’s like to be outside the ropes. He has played under a number of inspirational captains, including Paul McGinley, Bernhard Langer, Jose Maria Olazabal and Bjorn, and he knows what it takes to win on European soil. You can be sure that there will lots of thick rough and narrow fairways in Italy as he plays to the strengths of his team. We got a look at Marco Simone Golf Club at the 2021 Italian Open and it has to be said that it is not a thing of beauty. Westwood will hope that Guido Migliozzi continues his progress as he would love nothing more than to have a world-class Italian on board, somebody who can get the home crowd behind his team.

2025, Bethpage Black - Ian Poulter

Ian Poulter

Had a week to forget at Whistling Straits despite winning his singles match. Nobody embodies the spirit of the Ryder Cup quite like The Postman. He was the inspiration behind The Miracle at Medinah in 2012 and a given selection as a wild card due to his uncanny ability to raise his game during Ryder Cup week. He loves nothing more than to silence American galleries. One thing you can be absolutely certain of is that, regardless of the result, we will see Poulter in tears at some point during the week. In the aftermath of the resounding defeat at Whistling Straits, Poulter said: “It’s time for a changing of the guard with the European team. We saw how sweeping changes reinvigorated the USA and we need the same thing to happen in Europe. It is time for our young golfers to step up to the plate.” Like Westwood, Poulter is likely to demand a big say in team selection and will want to lead a side packed with players who have plenty of experience of playing on the PGA Tour. If you thought that the galleries at Whistling Straits were partisan then you had better take a deep breath because it is going be even louder at Bethpage Black. Just the sort of venue, in fact, where you would actually want somebody like Poulter in your team.

2027, Adare Manor - Graeme McDowell

Graeme McDowell

Adare Manor was designed by Tom Fazio and Robert Trent Jones Jr. It is a resort course that can stretch to nearly 7,500 yards. It is one of the most stunningly beautiful golf courses in Ireland but it is something of a surprise that a links course has not been chosen to host the 2027 event because this is a course that should suit the Americans. There is only one candidate as captain. It stands to reason that a European team on Irish soil is going to be captained by an Irish golfer. Given that Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington have already done the job (unsuccessfully), former US Open champion Graeme McDowell is a racing certainty to lead the team in 2027. He is the man who holed the winning putt at Celtic Manor in 2010, when Colin Montgomerie was captain. He was a vice-captain in 2018 and 2021 and says that his experiences in 2018 made him realise that he wants a shot at the captaincy. "That was the first time I had a take of the behind-the-scenes feeling of what it takes to get 12 guys together, putting the chemistry together, the pairings, getting the right environment for the guys and the messaging and communication level," he said. "We know how they are competitively because you see them out there and you see them on TV, but they can be very different people off the course to what you might imagine. Take Ian Poulter. There are certain guys that he works well with, but there are certain guys don't want that because he's going to be beating his chest and going crazy. Not every player wants that. It's a fantastic thing, but it doesn't work for everyone. It's a study in people and professional athletes are very strange people. It takes all sorts of people and that's what we are working on and it's really interesting and cool stuff, to be honest."

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