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Luke Donald plays down revenge angle at Ryder Cup in Rome - but his players may feel differently

According to captain Luke Donald, Europe's humbling 19-9 defeat at Whistling Straits in 2021 is not the "focus" for his team in Rome this year - but listening to his players tells a different story.

Shane Lowry revealed the idea for January's Hero Cup – effectively reviving the Seve Trophy – was formed on the plane journey home as Europe's players realised more team match-play experience would be beneficial.

Lowry also concurred with Tommy Fleetwood's assessment that the nature of the defeat meant the players had formed a special bond and determination to regain the trophy as they stood and watched the United States celebrating their record triumph.

And Rory McIlroy, who was reduced to tears after winning his only point of the week in the singles against Xander Schauffele following three heavy defeats, admitted that his own performance and the scoreline still "stung".

So whether Donald taps into those emotions or not, several members of his team have plenty of motivation to ensure that their side regain the trophy and prevent the USA from winning on European soil for the first time since 1993.

Seven of the last eight contests have been won by the home side, with the exception being 2021's ‘Miracle at Medinah' when Europe staged a remarkable recovery from 10-4 down to triumph in Chicago.

Donald knows all about that unlikely victory after playing a key, and often overlooked, part in it by partnering Sergio Garcia to victory over Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker in the Saturday afternoon fourballs.

While Ian Poulter's five straight birdies which propelled him and McIlroy to victory in the final match tend to dominate the headlines, Donald's stunning approach to the par-three 17th after Woods had already hit it close was vital in closing out a narrow win which, as Poulter put it, meant Europe suddenly "had a pulse".

Poulter, Garcia and fellow Ryder Cup veteran Lee Westwood are, of course, ineligible for this year's contest after giving up their membership of the DP World Tour amid the fallout from joining the Saudi-funded LIV Golf League, but the trio have done little to suggest they would have qualified.

And while Jon Rahm has made it clear on several occasions that he wanted to renew his successful partnership with Garcia, the likes of McIlroy and Lowry have welcomed something of a changing of the guard in the European ranks.

Half of Donald's side are under the age of 30 and Justin Rose is comfortably the oldest at 43, with FedEx Cup winner Viktor Hovland only 25 and a possible long-term partner for 23-year-old Swede Ludvig Aberg.

Aberg was hailed as a "generational" talent when selected by Donald in the aftermath of his victory in the final qualifying event in Switzerland, just his ninth start as a professional.

A fortnight later Aberg also held a two-shot lead after 54 holes of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth before struggling to a closing 76, something which could prove a blessing in disguise if it reins in some of the hype surrounding the former world number one amateur.

As for the USA, they have arguably been hit harder by the loss of LIV players, with only US PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka selected after dropping out of the automatic qualifying places at the last minute.

Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau could arguably have strengthened Zach Johnson's side but it can still boast six of the world's top 10 and three of this year's major winners in Koepka, Wyndham Clark and Brian Harman.

The visitors remain favourites to end their long drought on European soil but the odds have narrowed in recent months and a first truly close contest since Medinah could be on the cards.

READ MORE: Will home advantage count and can Ludvig Aberg boost Europe? 5 Ryder Cup talking points

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