The talented Scottish pair have both been included in the Great Britain and Ireland team taking on Continental Europe in the new Hero Cup, which, driven by Donald following his appointment earlier this year, will be a launchpad for a new generation of Ryder Cup players.
Tommy Fleetwood will captain the Great Britain and Ireland team in Abu Dhabi next month, when Ferguson and MacIntyre, both winners on the DP World Tour in 2022, will join forces with the likes of Shane Lowry and Tyrrell Hatton. Led by Francesco Molinari, the Continental Europe line up includes Alex Noren, Thomas Pieters, Rasmus Hojgaard and Scottish-based Victor Perez.
“Yeah, it is starting to feel very real and I am very excited about the line ups we have on both sides,” Donald, speaking in the Bahamas, where he played in the Hero World Challenge Pro Am at the Albany resort, told The Scotsman.
“There’s some really strong players and some guys I feel have a lot of potential to be in Rome. I am very happy that so many were excited to be a part of it and to be playing in it.
“There will be people out there disappointed and I’m disappointed for them. We had a lot of discussion, not only with Tommy and Francesco but also with Thomas [Bjorn], Edoardo [Molinari] and a little bit with Nico [Colsaerts] last week.
“It’s not a perfect science this Hero Cup, but we’ve got a good mix of players who have a lot of potential and, if they are not playing in this Ryder Cup, then I think they will be playing Ryder Cups down the road.”
Ferguson secured his chance to shine in a team environment at Abu Dhabi Golf Club on 13-15 January by winning twice in his rookie season on the DP World Tour while MacIntyre was always in the frame after landing the DS Automobiles Italian Open at Marco Simone, next year’s Ryder Cup venue.
“I was really happy when Bob won as his first reaction was ‘I really want to make the Ryder Cup team’. It’s nice that this is on their minds - it’s really a goal for them,” said Donald, who played in four Ryder Cups - all of them winning experiences, including the 2012 ‘Miracle at Medinah’, where he led Europe out in the singles on the last day.
“They haven’t experienced it yet, so they don’t know how good it can be, but they’ve heard a lot of stories and they are all very eager to make their way on to that team and you want young, hungry players who are really excited to be part of it.”
Over the past few months, Donald has been running the rule over some of the contenders by playing alongside them at DP World Tour events. “It’s a little bit of everything, though it really comes down to having a good game,” he replied to being asked what he’s been looking at. “Ultimately, you want guys who can play well and play well under pressure and there’s no bigger pressure situation than a Ryder Cup. It’s just good to get a sense of who they are and what their game is like.”
One spot in each team has still to be filled. “They will be decided after Mauritius,” said Donald of the new DP World Tour schedule already being underway and that event taking place on 15-18 December following tournaments in Australia and South Africa.
“We just thought it would be a good idea and Thomas thought about this more than anyone. We felt it was a good idea to leave one spot just in case someone has run over the next few weeks and really impresses us.”
Colsaerts was recently announced as the latest member of Donald’s backroom team, joining 2018 winning captain Bjorn and former Scottish Open champion Molinari, who is well respected in the game for having a golfing brain.
“Nico is a great character, he’s very well liked on tour and I think he brings good positive energy,” said Donald of Colsaerts. “But, more than that, I chose him because he had one experience in the Ryder Cup in 2012 and it was the best week of his life.
“A year ago after Whistling Straits, he was in the Chicago area and wanted to go out to Medinah and experience being there again. Stuff like that shows he really understands and gets it. He’d been on my mind for a couple of months.
“I’ve got two more and usually it’s a little bit closer to the time before they are decided. Typically, some guys who want to be on the team but might not play well enough would come into the frame and have experienced Ryder Cups before. We’ll see. I’m not rushing those last two.”
Donald, a former world No 1, enjoyed playing some good golf himself in the recent Nedbank Challenge in South Africa, but his main focus is trying to win back the Ryder Cup after a thumping defeat at Whistling Straits.
“I’ve enjoyed every part of it so far. It’s given me a lot of focus, I suppose, and also good energy,” he said. I’m enjoying the journey and enjoying the process. It’s quite busy as there’s quite a lot goes into it.”
As well as others, Donald has been chatting to Paul McGinley, a winning captain at Gleneagles in 2014. “It was disappointing that I didn’t play on his team as he looked like a great captain,” he said. “I’ve spoken to him quite a bit over the past few months. He’s a very smart guy and I think we have similar thought patterns.”