Tuesday 17 October 2017

Clarke leading way in race to be Europe's next captain

Darren Clarke's status as a major winner and his bold personality are seen as an ideal combination to lead the team for the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine, Minnesota, in 2016. Photo: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images
Darren Clarke's status as a major winner and his bold personality are seen as an ideal combination to lead the team for the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine, Minnesota, in 2016. Photo: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Karl MacGinty

Europe is almost certain to be led into action by another Irish captain in two years' time.

Darren Clarke, who will forever be remembered for his tears of triumph and grief in the rain at the 2006 Ryder Cup at the K Club, is odds-on to succeed Dublin's Master of Gleneagles, Paul McGinley, as skipper at Hazeltine in 2016.

McGinley, whose captaincy was described as "amazing" and "fantastic" by World No 1 Rory McIlroy following Sunday's 16.5 to 11.5 drubbing, has made it abundantly clear that his days in the Ryder Cup arena are over.

Asked if the current trend of one-time captains in Europe will continue, McGinley said emphatically: "One hundred per cent, not even a question."

McGinley now will adopt a behind-the -scenes role in the selection process, combining with his predecessors, Jose Maria Olazabal and Colin Montgomerie to pick the skipper for 2016.

They will be joined on the new five-man selection committee by Tour Chief Executive George O’Grady and Thomas Bjorn, Tour Players chairman.

Bjorn, a member of McGinley's 12-man team at Gleneagles, revealed last night that the decision of the three captains, if unanimous would be rubber-stamped.

"The thinking was that if the three past captains agree well then nobody else should really have a say," explained the Dane. "They know what it takes so, if they can agree, we will (ratify it). Let's let this one settle before we start thinking about that."

Bjorn has ruled himself out of contention for the job at Hazeltine, while Ireland's three-times Major Champion Padraig Harrington is determined to play a sixth Ryder Cup in two years time, leaving just Miguel Angel Jimenez as Clarke's only clear-cut rival for the job.

McGinley yesterday insisted that his relationship with Clarke, strained when the Ulsterman went back on a written pledge of support for the Dubliner and challenged for the post before withdrawing at the 11th hour, would not affect his deliberations in any way.

"Absolutely no problem whatsoever," he insisted. "I'm going to be very professional in my input. I was very much validated by the players and I'm going to seek the opinion of a lot of players before I put my opinion forward."

Bjorn had no doubt McGinley will be scrupulously fair in his deliberations. "The one thing I will say about Paul is he sees the bigger picture. I don't think he will let emotions or personal things come into it. That is not the way I see Paul at all. He has no personal thing. They have been friends for so long, they will put that to bed at some stage."

"We've known each other since age 15," McGinley insisted. "Darren and I will be fine."

Rory McIlroy, who played an influential part in McGinley's appointment, is likely to play the role of kingmaker once again. On a recent BBC TV programme with Clarke and McDowell, he said: "For a Ryder Cup in the States, I don't think there is any better candidate than Clarke from the European side. He is absolutely loved over there."

McGinley now intends to concentrate on playing golf and his course design business and may even play this week's Dunhill Links at St Andrews.

Irish Independent

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