Padraig Harrington is in for 2020, but after that several huge names will have to miss out on the Ryder Cup captaincy. Mark Townsend predicts the next five to lead Europe

There is a school of thought that we all talk about the Ryder Cup too much – it only happens once every two years, only two continents are involved, it’s 18 holes of matchplay, it’s only three days, it’s no more than an exhibition, it’s become a corporate bonanza, it’s too home-centric and it’s played at the wrong time of the year.

The other way to look at it is that it’s as sensational as sport gets so why not spend most of your waking hours pondering different situations or reminiscing about Jose Maria Olazabal’s putt to win on his debut match with Seve Ballesteros and the subsequent Friday afternoon whitewash at Muirfield Village in 1987.

And so, with the dust just about settling on Padraig Harrington’s appointment for 2020, we can all now quickly turn our attentions to the Ryder Cup captain guessing games in the next dozen years…

Europe’s next Ryder Cup captains: 2022 

Europe's next Ryder Cup captains

We spoke to Lee Westwood last year and, given he’s played on 10 teams and been a vice-captain once, he said he would probably wait until 2022 at Marco Simone Golf & Country Club.

Which is code for “I’ll be captain in 2022”.

As Harrington explained: “They want to get a picture who is interested and a perfect example would be obviously in Lee Westwood’s case, they needed to know whether he was interested or not and he’s thinking he got the feeling from watching it that maybe have one more go and go for 2022.”

Which is code for “Lee will be captain in 2022”.

Europe’s next Ryder Cup captains: 2024 

Europe's next Ryder Cup captains

Here are the ages of Europe’s captains this century – 49 (Sam Torrance), 47 (Bernhard Langer), 48 (Ian Woosnam), 51 (Nick Faldo), 47 (Colin Montgomerie), 46 (Jose Maria Olazabal), 47 (Paul McGinley), 48 (Darren Clarke), and 47 (Thomas Bjorn).

You don’t have to be a genius to spot a bit of a trend here. Hit 45 and, if you’re not going to make the team, then you’re in with a shout. Interestingly of the last nine European captains, only five are major winners. The United States have never chosen a major-less skipper. Needless to say plenty have just the PGA on their CV, but still.

Now we’re getting into a bit of a pickle. You can probably assume that one of Bjorn’s right-hand men, Robert Karlsson, who will be 55 in 2024, will miss out. Paul Lawrie, who wasn’t part of the 2018 set-up, describes himself as a “back of the room type guy” so we can now strike a line through him as well.

Now we’re into the realms of Ian Poulter, who will be 48, the same with Henrik Stenson, while Paul Casey is a year younger and Luke Donald two.

It’s away at Bethpage State Park in New York State and, in my head, that only points to one person: The proverbial Postman, Ian James Poulter.

The general feeling is these two are all but nailed on. So who gets the nod for the Ryder Cup captaincy between 2026 and 2030 and, more importantly, who misses out? Find out on the next page…