Tuesday 17 October 2017

Darren Clarke set for Love match as Irish toast second Ryder Cup captain

Karl MacGinty

Darren Clarke and Irish golf can celebrate yet another crowning achievement this afternoon when the Ulsterman is named European Ryder Cup captain for 2016, succeeding Paul McGinley in one of the most prestigious positions in his sport.

And if Rory McIlroy was firmly in the driving seat for McGinley's appointment, the views of the World No 1 and other leading figures in the European team room - such as Graeme McDowell and Lee Westwood - should prove decisive in today's vote.

Europe's five-man selection committee, including captains McGinley, Jose Maria Olazabal and Colin Montgomerie, meets in Wentworth today.

Though Miguel Angel Jimenez and Thomas Bjorn will be considered, Clarke's support in the locker room and popularity in the US make it unthinkable he'll miss out.

Influence

McIlroy's influence was seen to further good effect yesterday as Sergio Garcia and Ernie Els confirmed that they'll play May's Irish Open at Royal Co Down at the behest of the Holywood star, patron of the event through his charitable 'Rory Foundation'.

Garcia first won as a pro the last time he played the Irish Open (at Druid's Glen in 1999), while Els hasn't been seen at the event since '98, though he won the AmEx World Golf Championship at Mount Juliet in 2004.

Also confirmed for the May 28-31 event is McIlroy's good friend and American rival Rickie Fowler, plus Westwood.

Talking of American friends and rivals, Clarke will have one of his closest pals on the PGA Tour, Davis Love III in the opposite corner at Hazeltine in 2016.

The appointment of Love, home skipper when Europe performed 'The Miracle at Medinah', will be confirmed next week, according to sources.

He's seen as a more natural fit for the PGA of America than Freddie Couples, his main rival for the post.

Irish Independent

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