How Is Ryder Cup Captain Chosen? [Previous Captains]

Being chosen as a Ryder Cup captain is one of the greatest honours a player can have in golf.

The Ryder Cup is one of the biggest events in sport, so becoming a captain is what many professional golfers dream of achieving.

So how are Ryder Cup captains picked? Let’s take a look.

How Do You Become Ryder Cup Captain?

How Is The Ryder Cup Captain Chosen?

How Is The Ryder Cup Captain Chosen?

The Ryder Cup captain for both Team USA and Team Europe is chosen by a select committee from the PGA of America and the European Tour Group respectively.

For the USA team captain, a group of 21 committee members is called together to regularly meet and make a decision on which person will be captain.

This is similar to the European Ryder Cup captain, with a committee made up of former Ryder Cup players and other officials.

A captain is usually a player that has had a playing record in the Ryder Cup, but also shows good leadership skills and is capable of leading a team under high pressure.

Former captains and players of past Ryder Cup history can often influence which captain is chosen as they’ve been there and performed at the highest level before.

The selection process is an important one which needs to be considered greatly. Without a strong captain, who is confident in leading their team out, it’s unlikely they will be able to perform well under the most intense scrutiny of the Ryder Cup.

How Do You Become Ryder Cup Captain?

Ryder Cup captains are usually chosen based on their previous performance in Ryder Cups, but also on how well they can manage a team and create a winning environment.

A successful Ryder Cup captain is one that has had a good previous experience in multiple Ryder Cups, whether as a player or as a vice captain. This gives them a great chance of one day getting picked to captain Ryder Cup teams.

Of course, there’s nothing that actually states that a player needs to have had a Ryder Cup career previously, either as a player or as one of the vice captains, however it certainly helps to have been a part of the intense competition and atmosphere.

The Ryder Cup captains also get captain’s picks to finish off their teams. This means they need to have a good understanding of the current situation on the PGA Tour and DP World Tour.

It also helps if they have a good relationship with players on the team, knowing which players work best for the Ryder Cup matches, but also so they can keep the team room fun and relaxed.

Previous European Ryder Cup Captains

2021 – Pádraig Harrington

2018 – Thomas Bjorn

2016 – Darren Clarke

2014 – Paul McGinley

2012 – Jose Maria Olazabal

2010 – Colin Montgomerie

2008 – Nick Faldo

2006 – Ian Woosnam

2004 – Bernhard Langer

2002 – Sam Torrance

1999 – Mark James

1997 – Seve Ballesteros

1995 – Bernard Gallacher

1993 – Bernard Gallacher

1991 – Bernard Gallacher

1989 – Tony Jacklin

1987 – Tony Jacklin

1985 – Tony Jacklin

1983 – Tony Jacklin

1981 – John Jacobs

1979 – John Jacobs

1977 – Brian Huggett

1975 – Bernard Hunt

1973 – Bernard Hunt

1971 – Eric Brown

1969 – Eric Brown

1967 – Dai Rees

1965 – Harry Weetman

1963 – John Fallon

1961 – Dai Rees

1959 – Dai Rees

1957 – Dai Rees

1955 – Dai Rees

1953 – Henry Cotton

1951 – Arthur Lacey

1949 – Charles Whitcombe

1947 – Henry Cotton

1937 – Charles Whitcombe

1935 – Charles Whitcombe

1933 – J.H. Taylor

1931 – Charles Whitcombe

1929 – George Duncan

1927 – Ted Ray

Previous USA Ryder Cup Captains

2021 – Steve Stricker

2018 – Jim Furyk

2016 – Davis Love III

2014 – Tom Watson

2012 – Davis Love III

2010 – Corey Pavin

2008 – Paul Azinger

2006 – Tom Lehman

2004 – Hal Sutton

2002 – Curtis Strange

1999 – Ben Crenshaw

1997 – Tom Kite

1995 – Lanny Wadkins

1993 – Tom Watson

1991 – Dave Stockton

1989 – Raymond Floyd

1987 – Jack Nicklaus

1985 – Lee Trevino

1983 – Jack Nicklaus

1981 – Dave Marr

1979 – Billy Casper

1977 – Dow Finsterwald

1975 – Arnold Palmer

1973 – Jack Burke Jr.

1971 – Jay Hebert

1969 – Sam Snead

1967 – Ben Hogan

1965 – Byron Nelson

1963 – Arnold Palmer

1961 – Jerry Barber

1959 – Sam Snead

1957 – Jack Burke Jr.

1955 – Chick Harbert

1953 – Lloyd Mangrum

1951 – Sam Snead

1949 – Ben Hogan

1947 – Ben Hogan

1937 – Walter Hagen

1935 – Walter Hagen

1933 – Walter Hagen

1931 – Walter Hagen

1929 – Walter Hagen

1927 – Walter Hagen

Final Thoughts

Whether they’re leading out USA or European Ryder Cup players, the captain plays a very important role in the Ryder Cup.

It’s a huge honour and only very few are lucky enough to get picked to do it. Luke Donald will hope he and his team will do enough to pick up a famous win on home soil in 2023.


How are Ryder Cup captains chosen?

Ryder Cup captains are chosen by a selection process with committees from both the PGA of America and the European Tour Group.

Who chooses Ryder Cup captain?

The European Ryder Cup captain for the European team is chosen by the European Tour Group and the USA team captain is chosen by the PGA of America about 20 months prior to the event.

Captains are chosen based on their Ryder Cup experience and some former Ryder Cup captains can also be re-picked if they have had success previously.

Has Padraig Harrington been Ryder Cup captain?

Padraig Harrington captained the European Ryder Cup captain in 2021 when the European Ryder Cup team were beaten at Whistling Straits by a USA team captained by Steve Stricker.

Does the Ryder Cup captain change?

The Ryder Cup captain changes on an event-by-event basis with a new captain picked each match. Some captains, especially if they’ve had a successful Ryder Cup captaincy, might get picked again in future years.

Was Tiger Woods ever captain of Ryder Cup?

Tiger Woods has never been a captain in the Ryder Cup, however, he has been a vice-captain for previous events. He has been captain of the United States team in the Presidents Cup, where he was a playing captain in 2019.

Why is Zach Johnson Ryder Cup captain?

Zach Johnson was chosen as Ryder Cup captain because of his experience playing in five previous Ryder Cups. Although he was only on the winning team once, he has gained a deep understanding of the Ryder Cup and what it takes.

Ed Welton

Founder, Editor

Ed is the founder and editor at EEE Golf. He’s been playing golf for over 20 years, competing in many top amateur events. He’s played courses all over the world and played with some of the best players in the game. His aim is to help educate people about the game of golf and give insights into the sport he loves most.

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