Europe captain Donald sad to be without LIV trio for Ryder Cup

golf04 May 2023 18:01| © AFP
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Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter © Gallo Images

Europe's Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald expressed his sadness Thursday that Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Sergio Garcia will be unavailable for the team but insisted his side could yet triumph against the United States.

The experienced trio have all been deemed ineligible for this year's edition of the biennial team golf contest in Rome in September after quitting the European Tour, having joined the Saudi-backed breakaway LIV Golf circuit.

"It's sad we've got to this point but this was always a possibility," Donald told the BBC on Thursday.

"I played with all three and they've been stalwarts of, and given a lot to, both the Ryder Cup and European Tour."

The 45-year-old Englishman, bidding to guide Europe to their first Ryder Cup success since 2018, added: "I have a little more clarity now. I know they're not an option to play in, or be any part of my team. It is a shame."

Former world No 1 Westwood, 2017 Masters champion Garcia and Poulter have 53 European Tour victories between them.

Last month, the European Tour won its legal battle with rebels, including the English trio of Westwood, Poulter and Richard Bland, after the players appealed against punishments the tour wanted to impose on those who took part in the inaugural LIV event last year.

The case arose when players requested releases to play in the LIV Golf event at the Centurion Club in England in June.

Those requests were denied but the players competed regardless and were fined £100 000 ($125 000) and suspended from the Scottish Open and two other events.

Earlier, the 50-year-old Westwood, regarded as one of the best golfers of his generation never to have won one of golf's four major championships, said he had paid the fine in a bid to "move on".

But he accused the European Tour of becoming a "feeder" event for the US PGA Tour, the sport's other major circuit, as he criticised established golf's response to the emergence of LIV.

Donald, who was appointed captain only after Henrik Stenson was dismissed for joining LIV, will now be without three of Europe's most successful Ryder Cup golfers in Italy.

Westwood has featured as a player a record 11 times, Poulter is unbeaten in singles across his seven appearances and Spanish star Garcia is Europe's all-time record points scorer.

But Donald was adamant he still had "plenty of great golfers" to look at and pick from.

"There's great momentum with European golf," he said.

"We've already had seven winners in the US (this season) and a bunch of people who haven't played in the Ryder Cup have played great this year on the DP World (European) Tour so I'm excited about the make-up of this team."