Luke Donald has pledged his “full loyalty” to the Europe Ryder Cup team as their soon-to-be-confirmed captain for next year’s game in Rome, taking an all-powerful swipe at Henrik Stenson – the LIV rebel he’s replacing – in the process .
“I won’t do Henrik,” the Englishman promised.
Telegraph Sport exclusively revealed on Thursday that Donald, the former world No. 1, has been chosen to fill the gap left by Stenson’s stunning U-Turn to compete on the Saudi Arabia-funded circuit, despite signing a contract expressly forbidding the Swede to do so.
Donald has also been offered an LIV deal – as a TV analyst rather than a player – but insists that even if Stenson’s £40m prepayment hangs in front of him, there’s no chance he will defect.
“If I got this captaincy I would keep my word and live up to it,” Donald told Golfweek, using the “if” word in reference to the other captains candidates who may not have been aware of his appointment yet. “Let me put it this way, I wouldn’t do Henrik.”
Like Stenson, Donald put his commitment in writing when he threw his hat into the ring during the selection process that was set to culminate in March. Telegraph Sport has seen a copy of the contract and the stipulation is clear, despite Stenson reiterating his “huge disappointment” that he will not be allowed to take the LIV fortune and continue the role as successor to Padraig Harrington.
It stated: “The successful candidate will be expected to commit during his tenure to exclusively support the Ryder Cup and the DP World Tour and therefore, by extension, will not support or promote any other property [including, without limitation, other Tours, Leagues, Series or Competitions].”
Donald is clearly unimpressed with Stenson’s performance last week, with the Swede making his LIV debut here in the third £20m, 54-hole event starting on Friday.
Stenson was one of the first players mentioned when LIV began trying to lure big names with their enticements worth tens – in some cases hundreds – millions of dollars and, like many, Donald wonders why the 46-year-old even on his unprecedented 127-day reign in which he appointed Thomas Bjorn and Edoardo Molinari as vice-captains, as well as visiting the Marco Simone Country Club and posing with the Cup for publicity photos at the Colosseum.
‘I had some of my best golf moments in the Ryder Cup’
“I was surprised that [Stenson] would put his name up if his plan was to go to LIV, which, you know, the rumours, and I hate to talk about rumours, but rumor has it that he had been in touch with the rival tours, what they were, and he was very interested,” Donald said.
“And I think everyone knew that, the European Tour knew that. They clearly took him at his word that he wouldn’t do it. We all have to sign a clause or contract that says we have nothing to do with it [LIV]. I’m disappointed, I think he would call his name and then go to LIV. I understand that certain guys go to LIV, in certain situations in their careers and stuff, that makes sense. But of course something big to give up.
“I had some of my best golf moments in the Ryder Cup. What a great honor it is to represent Europe in the Ryder Cup and I would love to be captain.”
Donald will be revealed early next week after playing in the Rocket Mortgage Classic. He started with a two-under 70 in the PGA Tour event in Detroit that was completely overshadowed by this tournament on Donald Trump’s track and was outraged by his LIV offer to join the broadcast squad.
“We turned that down pretty quickly,” said Donald, now the world’s number 511. “A bit of a soft spot for my game. I know I haven’t played that great, but…thanks, but no, thanks.”
Stenson himself was moody when asked by Telegraph Sport what he thought of Donald’s upcoming announcement. “That’s news to me,” he replied. “Of course I am not aware of these things at the moment. I don’t feel like I should say anything about that until it’s official news.”
Expect that chippiness to reach a new level when Stenson learns of Donald’s scathing criticism of his career decision.