Wednesday 21 March 2018

Darren Clarke plans to take Alex Ferguson and a very special Irishman to the Ryder Cup

Former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson
Former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson

Olivier Brown

Darren Clarke will take Alex Ferguson to the Ryder Cup in September in an effort to galvanise his European players in their quest for a fourth successive victory over the United States.

He also plans to use Paul O’Connell, the former Ireland rugby captain, as a motivational speaker at Hazeltine to inject some ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ Irish spirit in the team room.

While Clarke, the 2011 Open champion, is notoriously hot-tempered, he is analysing his duties as Europe’s captain in an unprecedented degree of detail. In particular, he has earmarked Ferguson as the figure who could make the crucial difference in Minnesota this year.

“Darren spoke to Sir Alex at the Masters, picking his brains,” Chubby Chandler, his long-time manager, said. “He heard about how he managed Andy Cole and Teddy Sheringham, two personalities who didn’t get on, to help him to prepare.”

Clarke has decided that Ferguson, who delivered a speech to the European golfers at Gleneagles in 2012, can have an inspirational effect by his mere presence. “Darren sees him as an impact substitute,” he said. “After one or two days, he might turn to Sir Alex and say, ‘Come into the team room and give a pep talk’. He doesn’t have to say too much, he just has to be there.”

The addition of O’Connell to the celebrity supporting cast is intriguing.

Clarke had originally wanted Jose Mourinho to contribute, as Pep Guardiola did for José María Olazábal in the extraordinary comeback victory at Medinah in 2012, but he has turned to O’Connell for a dose of the transformative leadership he delivered throughout 108 Tests for Ireland.

Desperate to be taken seriously as a captain, Clarke has also been working obsessively on his public speaking, even going to BBC’s Northern Ireland studios to practise in front of the autocue. Chandler said: “Darren told me, ‘If I deliver a good opening speech, I reckon that’s worth half a point to us. I want my team to be proud of me when I stand up there’.”

Clarke, speaking at the Costa Smeralda Invitational in Sardinia, confirmed that his team would still be competing under the European flag in spite of Britain’s decision to leave the EU.

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