PAUL McGINLEY'S prospects of leading the home team into action at the 2014 Ryder Cup have been boosted by the election of two new members to the European Tour's all-powerful Tournament Players Committee.
Dubliner Peter Lawrie and Italy's Francesco Molinari have been chosen by their peers on Tour to replace England Barry Lane, who stepped down, and Richard Finch, who was required by rule to seek re-election this month.
At present, McGinley and bookies' favourite Darren Clarke are the two leading contenders to captain the team at Gleneagles, though the expected appointment of 63-year-old legend Tom Watson as US skipper for 2014 could prompt a change of tack in Europe, Lawrie suggests.
"As someone who has yet to learn the workings of the committee, I have an entirely open mind ... but I might ask why is it only a two-horse race for the captaincy?" said the Dubliner.
"What is happening in America (with Watson) has really come out of the blue and maybe we'd need a name, a really big personality, to go up against a name."
The biggest 'name' Europe could ask to skipper the team in Scotland would be Colin Montgomerie. However, that would require the Tour to overturn recent convention barring people from doing the job twice; Monty was winning captain at Celtic Manor in 2010.
As things stand, Lawrie (38) declines to state his preferred choice from the current top two candidates, but Molinari is one of seven members of the European Ryder Cup team in Chicago to have nominated McGinley as the man he'd like to take charge at Gleneagles.
Like Clarke's fellow Ulstermen, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, it is the view of the majority of Europe's 12 miracle workers at Medinah that Clarke is an outstanding candidate for the captaincy at Hazeltine, Minnesota in 2016.
When questioned, only two of this year's team nominated Clarke as their choice for the captaincy at Gleneagles – his ISM stablemate and good friend Lee Westwood, plus Spain's Sergio Garcia. Three of the team declined to make their preference known.
Remarkably, Molinari is the only member of this year's Ryder Cup team on the Tournament Committee, so his election is of no little significance in helping ensure their voice is heard.
Finch, also a member of the ISM stable, was thought likely to give Clarke his vote had he remained on the committee. David Howell will be the only ISM man left in the room when Clarke and McGinley, who manages his own affairs these days, excuse themselves from the captaincy debate at the Abu Dhabi Championship in January.
The 15-man committee now comprises: Thomas Bjorn (chairman), Felipe Aguilar, Paul Casey, Clarke, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Joakim Haeggman, Howell, Rafael Jacquelin, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Lawrie, Robert Karlsson, McGinley, Molinari, Montgomerie and Henrik Stenson.
Lawrie, at Leopard Creek in South African for this week's Alfred Dunhill Championship, sought election to the Tournament Committee "because after 10 years on Tour, I was curious to see how things work behind the scenes."
Damien McGrane and Michael Hoey also play in South Africa, while Clarke teed it up earlier today in the first round of the Australian PGA Championship at the Palmer Coolum Resort on the Gold Coast just north of Brisbane.
Given the giant, 28-foot T-Rex which towers between the ninth and 10th holes, it's appropriate that another impressive 'dinosaur', Peter Senior, last week's stunning winner of the Aussie Open at age 53, has a chance of a third career PGA victory at Coolum.
The T-Rex usually rears up and roars when approached, but the tournament hosts have promised to switch it off during the tournament.
Alfred Dunhill Championship,
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