independent

Friday 25 April 2014

Clarke the only man to lead Europe at Gleneagles

Clarke's principal rivals for the honour at Gleneagles, Paul McGinley and Thomas Bjorn, his fellow vice-captains at Medinah, are European Tour men to the core.

The case for Darren Clarke to assume the captaincy of the Ryder Cup in January is irresistible.

It is not that the other candidates do not offer worthy credentials -- only that they are not as compelling as his.

His premature elevation to the role in one newspaper yesterday even provided him with an opportunity to display a little of the statesmanlike gravitas that the job increasingly demands.

In response to his 2014 coronation, Clarke tweeted: "To clarify I have not been offered the Ryder Cup captaincy. It's not decided by the committee until January. Would be a huge honour if asked."

Clarke's principal rivals for the honour at Gleneagles, Paul McGinley and Thomas Bjorn, his fellow vice-captains at Medinah, are European Tour men to the core.

McGinley memorably stroked the winning putt in 2002. Bjorn is chairman of the Tour's tournament committee. But Clarke has the momentum and the desire.

In the role of vice-captain, Clarke was closely associated with the twin miracles of Medinah and Celtic Manor. In his fifth and final appearance as a player, he was at the centre of a tragic narrative that in terms of emotion eclipsed even those epic tales.

At the 2006 Ryder Cup at the K Club, Clarke's wife, Heather, had lost her fight with cancer only weeks before. Despite the grief that enveloped him, Clarke accepted Ian Woosnam's wild-card pick.

No tee shot in the history of the game has carried as much human drama as the blow with which Clarke opened proceedings on that September morning.

Clarke's candidacy is not predicated on the sympathy vote. He has been one of Europe's finest golfers. Some would have him the greatest links player from these isles, a gifted ball-striker whose career deserved greater reward than the one Major it yielded at Royal St George's last year.

Clarke knows what it takes to be great. But golf is a game of imperfections. Managing the misses is the key to staying sane. His victory at the Open imposed its own tyranny and exposed his imperfections because he could not tolerate falling short of his own exacting standards.

Happily, the Ryder Cup lifts us beyond individual concerns and Clarke is fluent in all its rituals. Picture it now: the mountain setting, cigar ablaze at the wheel of his buggy. Yes, Clarke is made for Gleneagles. (© Independent News Service)

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