Lee Westwood has taken himself out of the reckoning to be Europe’s next Ryder Cup captain, deciding instead to continue concentrating on his playing career.
Westwood, 48, was considered a certainty to succeed Padraig Harrington and assume the reins for the 2023 match in Rome, where Europe will attempt to win back the trophy that they lost by a record scoreline in Wisconsin two months ago.
Yet having become the oldest player ever to qualify for a Ryder Cup team by right and having remained in the elite since his extraordinary revival from struggling outside the world’s top 100 in 2018, Westwood understandably still has his eye on individual titles.
The Worksop veteran is world No 38, with only six other Europeans above him in the rankings and it is eminently feasible that he could make a record 12th appearance in the Italian capital.
Europe has only ever appointed two golfers as captain while they were still in world’s top 50 - and both Seve Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer saw their playing status fall dramatically by the time their opening ceremony speeches came around.
“Of course it is not a decision I’ve taken lightly as it would be a huge honour to captain Europe and it is something I’d love to do one day,” he said. “But it’s almost a full-time job nowadays and that is something I can’t commit to while I’m in the top 50 and still competitive.
“The Ryder Cup is very close to my heart and I would only take on the role if I believe I could give it 100 percent. Whoever gets the job for Rome will obviously have my full backing and I’ll continue to do all I can for the Europe cause, as I’ve always tried to since my debut 24 years ago.”
With Westwood out of the picture, the focus will now fall on Luke Donald and Henrik Stenson. It is understood that both have already been sounded out and have expressed their interest. Donald has been a vice-captain in the last two matches, while Stenson was in Harrington’s backroom at Whistling Straits. Stenson might be classed as favourite, if only because four of the last five captains have been from Great Britain and Ireland.
The options for the Ryder Cup committee, however, might not be limited to this duo and others such as Graeme McDowell and Robert Karlsson. There is a growing school of thought within the Tour that prior experience might be preferable, considering the importance of this particular encounter.
America has not won on away soil since 1993 and Keith Pelley will clearly not wish to be known as the first chief executive to oversee a home defeat in 30 years. Thomas Bjorn, the impressive 2018 captain, is a name that is increasingly being mentioned.