Luke Donald laughs off Ryder Cup idea despite flying start to Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

European captain cards opening-round 64 at Yas Links on Thursday

Luke Donald finished his opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at 8-under par. EPA
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Luke Donald laughed off the idea that he might play himself into his own Ryder Cup team after making a fine start to the 2023 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

The Englishman topped the leading board after the morning matches at Yas Links, having carded an 8-under-par opening-round of 64.

Donald will captain the European Ryder Cup in Rome later this year. The former world No 1 is now down at 541 in the global standings, and he said the idea making the side on merit is fanciful.

“[It was] 1975 I think the last time that happened,” Donald said when asked of the possibilities of qualifying for Rome. “No, we are a long way from that.

“I actually came into this year with higher expectations than I had in a while just for my own game.

“You know when you're swinging reasonably well. I feel like I've done some good work on my long game with [coach] Jamie Gough, and I've done some good work with my short game with Pat Goss.

“And to be honest, I feel like my game is in a pretty good spot. It's not totally surprising that I shot 64 today.

“I went out there, again, last couple days, I've been hitting it nicely, swinging well, and it was nice to carry that on today.”

Coincidentally, Donald teed it up at precisely the same time as Henrik Stenson, the player he controversially replaced as Europe’s leader for the match against United States.

Neither of the 7.50am matches attracted a vast gallery. While Donald was making his way to a birdie three at the 10th – his opening hole – a total of six spectators watched Stenson playing the first.

Stenson, who was removed from his Ryder Cup role last June due to his decision to join LIV Golf, ended his own opening round with a 4-under 68.

Updated: January 19, 2023, 10:03 AM