Paul McGinley could become Ryder Cup captain as early as 2012, should health problems force favourite Jose Maria Olazabal to turn down the position.
Olazabal revealed he has spoken to Thomas Bjorn, Chairman of the Tournament Players Committee, who will decide on a replacement for Colin Montgomerie.
But the ailing Spaniard has informed Bjorn he would only be prepared to accept the role on the proviso that the committee understand he could be sidelined for much of the 2012 qualifying period.
The double-Major winner has been battling rheumatism, which has severely limited his tour appearances this year.
"The Ryder Cup is a special event for me. It means so much to me and I have many wonderful memories and great friendships," said Olazabal ahead of this week's Castellon Masters.
"My ultimate goal, if I can achieve it, will be to play again in the Ryder Cup. But if they appoint me as captain, I somehow have to be close to the players, somehow be able to compete alongside them, talk to them, to see how they think, and just be close to the tour through the qualifying process.
"So, by the time the Ryder Cup is played, you have a strong relationship with all team members. But then I also see the situation where I will have to say no and that is only because of my health. It would hurt me to say no but if that is the right decision my conscience will be clear."
While not wishing to single out anyone as a likely 2012 replacement, Olazabal was full of praise for McGinley's contribution at Celtic Manor.
"Paul, Thomas (Bjorn) and Darren (Clarke) were all very impressive in Wales and for the next few years it's going to tough selecting a captain," said Olazabal. "All of them did a good job, but Paul McGinley did the job especially well.
"He had such a great learning experience last year at the Vivendi Trophy. Then, from what I saw in Wales, Paul was great with his ideas and his impressions and they were helpful in the decisions."
If selected, McGinley would be just shy of 46 years at the time of the 2012 Ryder Cup, Clarke would be 44 and Bjorn 41.
Also returning to competition this week is fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia, who has turned to sophrology -- a programme of physical and mental exercises -- to get back to playing a full schedule.
The current World No 68 is hosting this week's Castellon Masters -- his home-town event -- along with playing today's Pro-Am alongside tennis World No 1 Rafael Nadal. Garcia will also contest next week's Andalucian Masters and the season-ending Dubai World Championship.