Thursday 21 September 2017

Karl MacGinty: Padraig Harrington may need 2020 vision to see the captaincy

Padraig Harrington believes Darren Clarke is 'is the right man... right now' for the Ryder Cup captaincy
Padraig Harrington believes Darren Clarke is 'is the right man... right now' for the Ryder Cup captaincy

Karl MacGinty

DARREN CLARKE'S Ryder Cup captaincy was barely an hour old when speculation began about his successor, with Colin Montgomerie suggesting the two men who lost out in Wednesday's poll would contend for the position in 2018.

A member of the selection panel which had just picked Clarke, Monty of course was attempting to salve the sting for Miguel Angel Jimenez and Thomas Bjorn.

There was passion, meanwhile, in Sergio Garcia's voice when he followed up his endorsement of Clarke as the "best option" for the US by saying: "I hope Miguel will get it in France."

Sadly, he and Jimenez, who'll be 54 in 2018, will be disappointed on that count. The Mechanic's best chance to become European captain has passed, despite his wondrous ability defying golfing logic and convention.

Astonishing

While it's not beyond the bounds of possibility for Jimenez to fight his way onto Clarke's team at Hazeltine next year, he's far more likely to be one of Europe's five vice-captains in Minnesota, a role he performed at Medinah and Gleneagles.

Jimenez gives the impression that he has taken-up citizenship of Tir Na nOg with his feats on the course - especially when he followed up a remarkable fourth place at last April's Masters by extending his own record as the European Tour's oldest winner in May's Spanish Open. Yet it's difficult to imagine him postponing full-time commitment to the Champions Tour in the US beyond next year.

Senior players have a relatively small window of opportunity to take full advantage of relative youth on that dollar-rich circuit and Jimenez, who has already won twice in two Champions Tour outings in the US, owes it to himself to cash in while he can.

Since the Nick Faldo debacle at Valhalla in 2008, the minimum requirement for European captains is that they be active on Tour, that they maintain a personal working relationship with the men on their team.

Bjorn and Padraig Harrington, both of whom will be 47 in 2018, will be at the head of the queue for the captaincy in Paris.

It should make no difference but the fact that McGinley has been succeeded Clarke inevitably will mitigate against another golfer from this island, namely Harrington, getting the job.

Meanwhile, the Dane's case may be boosted by a growing feeling abroad that more Continental captains are needed to redress the balance with Britain and Ireland.

Just three of the last 10 skippers have been from mainland Europe (Seve Ballesteros in '97, Bernhard Langer in '04 and Jose Maria Olazabal in 2012).

Harrington's best chance, perhaps, will be at Whistling Straits in 2020, when he's likely to face the considerable challenge of Lee Westwood .

Though Paul McGinley and Clarke will be on the selection panel in four years' time (and Harrington was firmly in Clarke's camp for 2016), the Ulsterman wouldn't be human if he didn't feel some loyalty to his best pal Westwood.

Jimenez nobly set aside his personal feelings to offer a firm and friendly pledge of support to Clarke.

"I am a little bit disappointed, I have been there for so many years on Tour, this is my 27th, and I have served at seven Ryder Cups, four as a player and three as vice-captain," he said.

"On the other hand, I feel happy for Darren, he will do a very good job. I'll be behind you, Darren. Don't worry, all the decisions you'll make for the Ryder Cup will be very good. I am very happy for you."

Jimenez played several mind-blowing shots during a first-round one-under-par 70 at the Hero Indian Open yesterday but they were eclipsed by his dignity.

Peter Lawrie posted an impressive, bogey-free 69 to share 15th, four off the lead, while Gareth Maybin (72), Kevin Phelan (73) and Damien McGrane (74) will probably have to dip below par at Delhi Golf Club today to make the cut.

Clarke, playing the Dimension Data Pro-Am at Fancourt, South Africa, with his teenage son Tyrone, shot level-par 72, leaving him six off the lead.

Hero Indian Open,

Live, Sky Sports 4, 7.0am

Northern Trust Open,

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Tiger's no-go for honda

TIGER WOODS has decided his game is not up to next week's Honda Classic on the punishing PGA National course in Palm Beach Gardens, the first event on the US Tour's Florida Swing.

Honda Classic executive director Ken Kennerly said he received a call from Woods' agent Mark Steinberg.

"He wanted to let us know Tiger's not going to play," Kennerly said. "He's been working on his game this week and feels as though he is not tournament ready to play."

Woods missed the cut in his first tournament of 2015, the Phoenix Open, shooting a career-worst 82, then withdrew during the first round of the Farmers Insurance Open because of back pain that he said was not related to his surgery last year.

Last week, he issued a statement explaining he would not play again until his game improved. Woods is ineligible for the upcoming Cadillac WGC at Doral but is expected to warm up for April's Masters at next month's Arnie Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

Hume stays on course wind

HOW appropriate that West of Ireland champion Jack Hume was  Ireland's trail-blazer in a tie for sixth after the opening two days of the European Nations Cup in Sotogrande, which were battered by howling gales.

Hume of Naas Golf Club followed up Wednesday's three-over 75 with a 76 yesterday to lie seven off the pace set by Spain's Mario Galiano, the World Amateur No 3 nipping into a four strokes lead on even par with a splendid 70.

The Irish team, which had led by four after the first round, endured the whirlwind yesterday, falling back into fourth place, 11 behind England.

It's a measure of how tough conditions were on La Reserva that The Island's Scottish Amateur champion Gavin Moynihan followed up his opening 75 with a 79 for a share of 14th, while West Waterford's Gary Hurley shot back-to-back 78's to lie 18th. Warrenpoint's Colm Campbell was tied 43rd after his 79 and 84.

Irish Independent

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