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Ryder Cup captain Donald looks for grit in Hero Cup

Luke Donald, the European Ryder Cup captain, is confident that a team tournament such as this week’s Hero Cup will help his players, still smarting under the heavy defeat to the United States in 2021.

A young American side, led by Steve Stricker, won by a thumping margin of 19-9 at Whistling Straits  for only their third victory in the last 10 tournaments. 

The USA will defend the title in Rome, Italy, from 29 September to 1 October.

Responding to a request by Ryder Cup players, the European Tour has reintroduced a team match play tournament in the schedule. 

The tour had the Seve Cup and the Royal Trophy in the past, but there has been no team event since the last of the three EurAsia Cup was played in Kuala Lumpur in 2018.

Tommy Fleetwood, who is leading the 10-man Great Britain & Ireland team against Francesco Molinari’s Continental Europe squad at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, revealed that one of the first things the players decided to recommend to the DP World Tour on the flight home from Wisconsin, was to bring back a team championship.

“Yeah, we didn’t enjoy losing last year at Whistling and losing pretty badly. We know the US are going to be very strong. They seem a little bit younger, they seem a little bit more unified. And they do have the Presidents Cup to work on partnerships and get together and foster that team atmosphere,” said the 45-year-old Englishman, who was made the captain when Sweden’s Henrik Stenson was stripped of the responsibility after he joined LIV Golf.

“We’ve kind of lost that since the last EurAsia Cup. I think it’s vital to have that on the schedule. So the years we’re not playing Ryder Cups, we can start testing some of this stuff out and not come in so raw.

“Given the team, match play aspect, a Hero Cup gives us an opportunity to get these guys in a team room. See how they perform in match play. This is a great first building block for hopefully getting a very successful Ryder Cup team in the long run.”

With the Ryder Cup scheduled almost eight months later, Donald insisted he and his three announced vice-captains (Thomas Bjorn, Edoardo Molinari and Nicolas Colsaerts) are looking for character rather than form or scoring ability.

“There are certain things that, when we do well, we have a lot of success. When you have 18 holes, you have to get off to a fast start. So, we are looking for someone who doesn’t just relax his way into the round but is ready on that first tee. I think that’s important,” said Donald.

“I like to see people who have a lot of grit and determination. It might feel like they’re out of the hole, but get the ball up and down. They hole putts that’s longer than someone else who is sitting for a birdie putt, those kinds of things.

“Obviously, one big thing is just testing our partnerships with foursome seeing how the guys react together. How they walk down the fairways. Also look at how they gel in a team environment and how their games complement each other. We’ve already started to learn a lot from what we have been doing off the golf course, and we’ll learn even more when the gun goes off.”

The three-day tournament starts Friday with foursomes session. This will be followed by two sessions of fourballs on Saturday and 10 singles matches on Sunday.

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