Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on Fire Pit Collective, a Golf Digest content partner.
AUCHTERARDER, SCOTLAND – Did you hear about the Ryder Cup chat going on at the England Grand Open here in Gleneagles, a former Ryder Cup venue, and won by Darren Clarke, a former Ryder Cup captain?
Rory McIlroy is vying to be the Europeans’ emergency replacement in next year’s Ryder Cup, after Henrik Stenson was fired.
Well, for the sake of full, necessary and immediate disclosure:
When I say “walk around”, what that means is that I brought up the idea to my Scottish colleague John Hogan while having lunch here on Sunday. So when I say “people,” I pretty much mean Hogan and I.
The way I see it, McIlroy will be the captain and face of the European team, the first captain to play in the Ryder Cup since Arnold Palmer in 1963. The deputy will be the detail man.
Regarding Huggan: Remember Phil Mickelson’s “hateful greed” quote, about the PGA Tour? Mickelson told Hogan at the Saudi International at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club on February 2.
There was no mention of the LIV golf league in Huggan’s GolfDigest.com story because the name was not in public yet. Hogan asked this question in the Mickelson article: “Will he jump into the unborn Saudi-backed Super Golf League?”
Half a long year has passed since then. Stinson removed as European Ryder Cup captain, only Before He announced his intention to join LIV Golf and play his first LIV event this week in New Jersey, part of the Troubles. The Ryder Cup Europe is now trying to figure out his successor. Candidates under consideration include Luke Donald, Paul Lowry and Thomas Bjorn.
My suggestion is to install McIlroy as play leader and have Lawrie, the new honorary member and fellow Royal & Ancient Golf Club, his first deputy, the one who does everything behind the scenes. McIlroy will be the main cast at many of the Ryder Cup press conferences, TV appearances, and corporate meetings, but he’ll get a break from it all while playing. McIlroy won the Open Championship at Hoylake in 2014. Lawrie won it at Carnoustie in 1999.
Incidentally, Laurie has played in two British inaugural tournaments this year, the St. Andrews Open and the Senior Gleneagles Championships. Part of the big magic of the Senior Tournament is seeing the Open Open winners try to complete an unlikely double.
Clarke, who also played on the court, won the Open Championship in 2011 and with his victory here he is now in a small club of golfers who have won both, along with Gary Player, Tom Watson and Bob Charles. Perhaps Stenson, who won the Royal Tron in 2016, will join the club one day. He’s 46, so his wait for 2026 is underway. Next year’s Open Championships at Royal Porthkall in Wales.
Regarding Porthcawl: If you can get there, for seniors or at any other time, I urge you to do so. Alan Shipnock and I played there in 2010, when the Ryder Cup was on the road, at the forgotten Celtic Manor. On the other hand, Porthcawl is one of the best courses you can hope to play (or watch). Stuart Sink, the 2009 Open winner, could try to become the fifth player to score an open double in Porthkaul’s career. He turns 50 next May.
The runner-up in this year’s tournament, played at King’s Stadium, was another (twice!) Ryder Cup champion, former Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington. Mark James, Bernard Langer, Paul McGinley and Colin Montgomery, all former Ryder Cup captains, were on the field. In 2014, here at Gleneagles, McGinley defeated the American team, led by Tom Watson. Stenson was one of Europe’s stars, despite losing to Patrick Reed in the singles on Sunday.
It was in the Ryder Cup, at the losing team’s press conference on Sunday night, that Mickelson exerted his influence for the first time on world golf matters by opening his mouth. Captain Watson was summoned, the system by which America’s Ryder Cup captains were prepared and selected was lifted high and rocked hard and was completely overhauled.
Stinson has lost something special. McGinley and Bernard Gallacher, neither of whom has won a major tournament, play golf all over Europe due to their success as European Ryder Cup captains. Pictures of both hang on the walls of the breakfast room at the Rusacks, the hotel located in the 18th aisle of the Old Stadium, along with pictures of Palmer, Ben Crenshaw, Seif Ballesteros and Ian Wasnam, to nod to the four major corporate winners who have captained the Ryder Cup teams. (Okay, for now, a picture of Woosnam is in the hotel’s basement room, presumably waiting for repairs. But the painting is there.)
Since the memorable 2014 Ryder Cup, the Americans have won twice and lost once. Mickelson’s own path to the captain was clear. He was definitely co-captain for Steve Straker when the United States defeated the Europeans at Whistling Straits last year. He will almost certainly be assistant captain next year to Zach Johnson, when the Ryder Cup takes place in Italy. He almost certainly would have captained the US team in 2025, when the Ryder Cup is played at Bethbag Black.
Mickelson will not be Johnson’s assistant in Italy. The captain will not be at Bethpage Black. (Tiger Woods might be a good guess.) Everyone knows why Mickelson is out: His second foray into world oral golf politics didn’t, for him, play anything like the first. It wasn’t his reference to the “scary mothers” of the House of Saud that changed his life. His admission to Shipnuck was that he helped engineer and finance the law firm of what one British newspaper likes to call the “Saudi-backed rebellious golf league”. This is LIV Golf.
For Phil’s sake, and for the fans’ interest in the game, I hope he tries to win the Seniors, earning his win at the 2013 Open. The Senior Open is one of the most fun events in golf. You’ll see many legendary golfers, plenty of golfers still in their fifties and clinging to childhood dreams, on courses that have stood the test of time.
She’s starred in Turnberry’s Chiefs, at Muirfield, St Andrews and now at Gleneagles. It takes place the week following the Open Championship, in part so that previous Open Open winners over the age of 50 can play the opening two slots in consecutive weeks. it is fun.
For years Palmer, Player, Watson, Charles, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Nick Faldo and John Daly have played for weeks on end this way. Ernie Els did it this year. The hero gets a small claret jug. This year’s winning check was for $432,000.
Mickelson could have spent two weeks in Scotland this hot summer of ’22, a week in St Andrews followed by a week in Gleneagles. He does grand hotels like everyone else, and the hotel here is as big as luxury, if you’re a fan of baronial splendor. But it was crowded. Had he played the inaugural two championships, that would have meant three in a row, as he is obligated to play at the LIV event in Trump Bedminster, in the New Jersey Equine State, this week. The Seniors Championship isn’t going to happen, not this year.
Woods, depending on age, will qualify for the Open Seniors in 2026. He could try to join the Open club. Louis Oosthuizen will get his first role in 2033. McIlroy in 2039.
But he has things to do before that. Like, for example, the captain role he played in the 2023 Ryder Cup.