May 26, 2024

European golfers denied Ryder Cup candidacy in the wake of joining LIV Golf are relegated to fan participation this week when the 2023 event is played at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Guidonia Montecelio, Italy, near Rome.

Henrik Stenson was bumped from his captaincy; Spain’s Sergio Garcia owns a magnificent record in Ryder Cup play; and Team Europe regulars Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell can’t play, either.

But McDowell told Golf Digest this week that he’ll be up with his just-after-midnight alarm at his Florida home to root for his team and fellow countryman Rory McIlroy to regain the Ryder Cup.

“I love the Ryder Cup,” McDowell told Golf Digest. “It is special to me. And it always will be. I’m very much trying to put the small bit of bitterness I feel to the side. It’s not bitterness towards anyone. It’s bitterness that I am not part of the eco-system. But I’m trying not to let that get in the way of what my true feelings are. I’ve had some of the greatest experiences of my life with my Ryder Cup teammates. And I enjoyed my two vice-captaincies. But this year it’s a little bittersweet for me. I just have to remember how cool it all is.”

Garcia is the only LIV player worthy of “making the 12” this year, in McDowell’s estimation. McDowell himself hasn’t finished a tournament in the top 10.

“Maybe Paul Casey, if he had been fully fit. Myself, Lee [Westwood] and Ian haven’t played well enough,” he said.

“The schedule we’ve played hasn’t helped either. Henrik is still a really good player. But would any of us have been in the 12? I don’t think so. Maybe a pick if the world was a different place, but certainly not me. I wouldn’t be close. I’d love to have been part of the vice-captain squad and help Luke [Donald] out. But it is what it is. I’m accepting of where we are in the world right now.”

Garcia said multiple times that he wanted to find a way on the team and admitted this week that he had tried directly to work his way on the roster through talks with the DP World Tour. Poulter has been salty about the Ryder Cup scenario, and Stenson, a member of three winning Ryder Cup teams, said he’s hopeful a middle ground can be found for LIV Golf players rejoining Team Europe as Brooks Koepka was welcomed to Team USA.

“If there are some things to be said and spoken about, I feel like there will be a better time and place out of respect for the team and the Ryder Cup itself. We will let that play out,” Stenson told Sports Illustrated this week.

McDowell would also welcome a chance to take swings for Team Europe again. This week, he’ll settle for waking in the middle of the night to watch every shot as a fan.

“It’s been something I’ve thought about,” McDowell told Golf Digest. “And it’s an interesting argument. Do I bury my head in the sand and wait for it all to be over and not say anything? Or do I be supportive? There are no sour grapes on my end. I understand why I’m not involved. I was texting with [European vice captain] Edoardo Molinari the other day, telling him how much I wish I could be in Rome. I genuinely feel that.”

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