PAUL McGINLEY'S prospects of becoming Ireland's first ever Ryder Cup captain have been boosted by his good pal Darren Clarke's win at the British Open.
In recent weeks, Clarke had been touted as a contender to lead the home team into action in the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles as he struggled manfully on the fringes of the world's top 100.
Though victory at Sandwich on Sunday has come too early to count in the race for a place on Jose Maria Olazabal's team to face the United States in Chicago in 2012, his long-awaited breakthrough at the Majors is likely to give Clarke a massive confidence boost.
So don't be surprised over the next 12 months if Clarke plays his way onto the 2012 team.
If not, Olazabal will surely be tempted to give Clarke a wild card to play in his sixth Ryder Cup now that he has once again proved his mettle on the game's greatest stage.
And the Ulsterman admitted yesterday that it would also be his intention to go to the 2014 Ryder Cup as a player, removing one very significant stumbling block from the path of McGinley, who showed his leadership qualities by captaining Britain and Ireland to victory at the Seve Trophy two years ago.
Dane Thomas Bjorn and Spanish veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez will also contend for the position in Gleneagles, but, as Clarke's agent Chubby Chandler said yesterday, McGinley's prospects are "better than they were. Darren wants to play in 2014."
Instead, Clarke is expected to put his name in the frame for the captaincy at Hazeltine in 2016, which will spare the Ulsterman the embarrassment of leading the home side into action on a golf course he has lambasted in the past.
"Yes, I've made some disparaging remarks about Gleneagles," Clarke admitted yesterday.
"My views are quite straightforward. To me a spade is a spade and I'll say what I think and I stand by what I said.
"At some stage in the future it might come back to get me, but in 2014 I'm sure we're going to have a wonderful Ryder Cup.
"It'll be as fantastic an event as it has been for numerous years now and I'd love to be on the team playing in 2014, never mind anything else."
Interestingly, Clarke has denied recent speculation that he had been appointed captain of the Great Britain and Ireland side at September's Seve Trophy. He knocked Padraig Harrington out of the provisional rankings for that team with Sunday's victory.