It’s been more than a quarter century since Sergio Garcia wasn’t part of Europe’s Ryder Cup team.
The energetic Spaniard, who joined the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour, knew what was coming, though, when captain Luke Donald called recently to let him know that he wouldn’t be taking part in this year’s event.
Not as one of Europe’s 12 players. Nor as one of Donald’s five vice-captains.
“We’ve chatted a little bit and he certainly wishes the team all the best. It’s different for me [too],” Donald said Monday after his entire team practised at the Marco Simone club outside Rome that will host the Ryder Cup from Sept. 29-Oct 1.
“It will be the first Ryder Cup I’ve been involved without Sergio. But he understands the role and he was more than supportive when I talked to him just a few weeks ago.”
Garcia played in 10 Ryder Cups from 1999 to 2021 and holds the Ryder Cup record for most points at 28½, going 3-1 in his last appearance at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin two years ago. Garcia didn’t play in the 2010 Ryder Cup when he took a break following a slump. But he was named as a vice captain for the 2010 event.
With Europe having been routed by the United States in 2021, Donald picked three rookies for his team in Ludvig Aberg, Sepp Straka and Nicolai Hojgaard.
The 23-year-old Aberg has been a pro for just three months but the former No. 1 amateur won the European Masters a day before Donald announced his team.
“We’ve known about Ludvig for a long time,” Donald said. “He obviously came out to the professional circuit and picked it up pretty quickly, some very strong finishes. … He’s a tremendous driver of the golf ball, which is really a strength around Marco Simone and he’s already fitting in very well with the team.”
Another hot player is Viktor Hovland, who won the BMW Championship and FedEx Cup title last month.
“Extremely big wins,” Donald said. “We have four of the last six FedEx Cup winners on our team. So these are positives that I’ll be talking to the guys about and keep pumping them up. But we won’t take the U.S. lightly. They’re a very strong team and we’re still hurting from two years ago.”
Between No. 2 Rory McIlroy, No. 3 Jon Rahm and No. 4 Hovland, Europe has three of the top four players in the world rankings.
“We have 12 very hot players, to be honest,” Donald said. “I’m very happy with my 12.”
Three players – Rahm, Hovland and Straka – arrived early on Sunday before the two-day training camp to visit the Colosseum.
“They said,” Donald recounted, “it was amazing.”