Captains look ahead to 2023 Ryder Cup
Luke Donald would love to have a home hero on his team when The Ryder Cup gets under way in 12 months' time but the European Captain insists there will be no room for sentiment when he is trying to regain the trophy.
The Englishman's backroom team already has an Italian flavour with Edoardo Molinari installed as a Vice Captain for the contest against the United States, which begins at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Rome on September 29 next year.
Guido Migliozzi's recent victory at the Cazoo Open de France and an upturn in form from 2018 five-point hero Francesco Molinari has raised hopes of an Italian being among Donald's 12 players, with a host of other home hopes doubtless also looking to crash the party.
But Donald insists he will only be looking for the 12 best men for the biennial spectacular, although he dearly hopes an Italian can be among them and join the Molinari brothers and Costantino Rocca on Italy's Ryder Cup roll of honour.
Speaking alongside US Captain Zach Johnson in Rome to celebrate one year to go until the action gets under way, he said: "My goal is to have the best 12 players to come next year. But I would dearly love there to be some Italians on that team.
"I was so excited to see Guido win a couple of weeks ago in France. I'm excited to have Edoardo Molinari as one of my Vice Captains already. He's been a huge help.
"His brother Francesco, obviously he has had a lot of history with The Ryder Cup and is already starting to show a lot of return to some of his best form, playing well in Italy a couple of weeks ago.
"I'm sure both of those guys will be pushing very hard to make that team."
The start of the qualification process has gone well for Europeans so far, with 2020 star Shane Lowry and Scotland's Robert MacIntyre, who has stated the Ryder Cup is his number one goal for the next year, already claiming wins.
MacIntyre's victory came at Marco Simone and Donald is delighted to see plenty of his potential charges putting their name forward early.
"I couldn't be more happy to be honest," he said. "You look at the first event, Wentworth, some of our established players: Shane winning, Rory second, Jon Rahm second, those top three established players that you would hope would be on the team playing extremely well.
"And then the last few weeks, Bob MacIntyre winning around Italy in a play-off against Matt Fitzpatrick, another guy that's played a couple of Ryder Cups.
"Guido, obviously the Italian connection. Looking at Bob MacIntyre and Guido who a few months ago felt like they lost their games a little bit, and they talked about that.
"I think seeing the importance of The Ryder Cup and how motivating that is has turned around their games and to see them going from missing cuts to winning tournaments is great for me.
"So seeing a bunch of established players along with this new blood, new generation of players playing well, it's been the ideal start."
Johnson has tasted defeat on European soil three times as a player and once as a Vice Captain but will cross the Atlantic with a team buoyed by their 19-9 victory last time out and a recent Presidents Cup success.
The Americans will be looking to end a near 30-year winless streak away from home, however, and the two-time Major Champion is expecting a tough test.
"It's just difficult," he said. "Just the mere fact that when you come to a hostile, foreign environment, it's hard. Coupling that you've got these passionate fans over here, who I adore, cheering and rooting really hard for their team, as they should.
"I don't know why we haven't (won). There's a lot of hypotheticals and theories that you can come up with.
"What I do know is that 2023 will be an opportunity of a lifetime, and that will be my message, pretty simple. Let's embrace the difficulty. Let's relish in the moment of being in Rome, competing in a sport you love, and representing a country that you're from. That's an opportunity of a lifetime. So that's how I'm going to go about it."