MILAN: Luke Donald said Tuesday that next year’s Ryder Cup will “unify” golf despite the sport descending into civil war over the mega-rich breakaway LIV tour.
Golf was plunged into crisis when the Saudi-funded LIV was announced earlier this year, offering players who switched from the traditional PGA and European tours huge sums of money but sparking a bitter split that threatens to tear the sport apart.
Four-time major champion Rory McIlroy said last month that he does not want any LIV players in Europe’s Ryder Cup team, while in June USA captain Zach Johnson suggested they would not be eligible for a place in Italy next September.
Europe team captain Donald, who took the position after his predecessor Henrik Stenson was sacked for joining LIV, told reporters in Rome that the Ryder Cup will help put that bitterness to one side.
“The history of the Ryder Cup is vital really, I think. What’s so great about the Ryder Cup is that it does garner an interest in a new generation of players and fans to this game. I think it’s always an inspiration to the fans, to anyone,” Donald told reporters at an event marking one year before the tournament.
“The Ryder Cup is bigger than any individual player and it’s a great way to unify everyone. I think it will continue to do that.”
Johnson revealed that Tiger Woods would play some role in the Americans’ bid to win in Europe for the first time in three decades, even if he isn’t one of the 12 players out on the Marco Simone course just outside the Italian capital.
“I can tell you right now, I don’t know whether he’ll be here next year, but he will be part of this team in some capacity. He already is frankly,” said Johnson.
“I can’t put this mildly; he loves the Ryder Cup… he wants to be a part of it as best he can… He and I will be in constant communication.”
Last month the USA brushed aside a non-European Internationals squad decimated by LIV defections 17.5-12.5 at the Presidents Cup.
They inflicted the heaviest ever defeat on Europe last year, winning 19-9 at Whistling Straits, but last won away from home at The Belfry in 1993.
“It’s just difficult. Just the mere fact that when you come to a hostile, foreign environment it’s hard,” added Johnson.
“Coupling that you have these passionate fans over here who I adore, cheering and rooting really hard for their team, as they should. So I don’t know why we haven’t (won for so long)… what I do know is 2023 will be an opportunity of a lifetime.”