We’re more than a year away from shots being struck in Rome next fall, but you wouldn’t know it by following the words and actions of players this week at the BMW PGA Championship in London. The Ryder Cup is on everyone’s mind.
You guessed it: LIV Golf. The disruptive force that has driven a wedge into the men’s pro golf world has skipped back across the pond to Wentworth and the site of the DP World Tour’s flagship event. Each and every year the best European golfers (and even some of the best Americans) descend upon England for another premier tournament. This year, not everyone is welcome.
But amid the discussion about who should and who shouldn’t be there is a simmering reality that rostering of the 2023 Ryder Cup team commences this week. This is the first event that will dish out qualifying points for that European Ryder Cup team, the same team that had to replace its captain less than two months ago as he left for LIV.
The new captain, Luke Donald, has received pointed questioning this week from LIV golfers who have declared their interest in taking part 12 months from now. But it’s even far too soon for him to decide anything, especially considering some of those players are in a lawsuit against the DP World Tour, to be heard for the first time in court in February.
Can the discussion of the Ryder Cup wait until then? No, of course not.
Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry were asked about LIV golfers being allowed to play in the Ryder Cup, and both seem to agree on a few points, mainly that the LIV-ers probably aren’t good enough at this point. Both players were interviewed by Jamie Weir of Sky Sports Wednesday and shared their thoughts on Ryder Cup rostering and how much LIV golfers deserve to fit in to the upcoming European system.
Lowry: “With all due respect, a lot of those guys over at LIV, I think they know themselves. And that’s why they went to LIV. Their Ryder Cup days are probably over.”
McIlroy: “Their best days are behind them and I think they would concede that as well. We have to think about the future of the European team. We’ve got like a group of seven players — a core seven, I think — and we need to fill that extra five with young, ambitious players. We need to blood a few new people in Rome.”
That core seven McIlroy is referring to is most likely himself, Lowry, Jon Rahm, Matt Fitzpatrick, Viktor Hovland, Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood. Which is only to say that Lowry’s opinion above matters, and McIlroy’s opinion matters just as much and probably more.
But what about Rahm’s opinion?
The Spaniard was the most valuable European on last fall’s squad, then ranked No. 1 in the world. He teamed up with Sergio Garcia for what he likes to call one of his best golf memories. But will Garcia be welcomed onto next year’s team? Rahm has already said he would like to see Garcia playing the Ryder Cup again. And this week he delved into that complicated, nuanced debate once again.
“I’ve said many times how important the Ryder Cup is to me,” Rahm said Tuesday. “I talked to my dad the other day about, and if it wasn’t for the Ryder Cup, I probably wouldn’t be here because that’s the reason why he started playing golf; therefore why I started playing golf.
“So I believe The Ryder Cup is above all in my mind. It is the greatest marketing tool golf has. One of the biggest sporting events, period, right? So I wouldn’t mind. Me and Sergio had a great, great experience in this last Ryder Cup, and I would love to repeat it above all no matter where he plays. But I can understand why it would be difficult.
“If it was up to me I would love to reach a resolution to some of them being able to play because, like I said earlier, how many Ryder Cups has Sergio played? Ten? Most points ever earned in The Ryder Cup. Westy has been a part of a lot of them as well and many others. I don’t know if it will be possible or not but I think if there’s a way, I would like to see it.”
The best chance Garcia will have of making the team would be to 1. Play extremely well in the majors (three of which he is not qualified for) and the DP World Tour events he is allowed into. And 2. Earn a captain’s pick.
That’s why Garcia reportedly was on hand to ask a Ryder Cup question of Keith Pelley during the players’ only meeting Tuesday night. The path to Garcia’s inclusion isn’t exactly straightforward, especially when UK courts become further involved in just a couple months. Until then, plenty of doubt hangs in the air. Just enough for everyone to talk, talk, talk about it.