Saturday 16 December 2017

Ryder Cup 2016: Darren Clarke's secret 15th man is revealed

Darren Clarke has brought six data specialists to Hazeltine
Darren Clarke has brought six data specialists to Hazeltine
Captain Darren Clarke is taking nothing for granted despite Europe's impressive recent Ryder Cup record

Harry Clarke

Paul McGinley chose Alex Ferguson but fellow Irishman Darren Clarke has gone down a different route as he looks for inspiration ahead of this year's Ryder Cup.

Team Europe embark on their quest to secure and unprecedented four-in-a-row when they take on USA in Friday's-starting competition in Hazeltine.

While former Manchester United manager Ferguson offered words of wisdom for McGinley's men two years ago, Clarke is bringing a team of six data specialists with him to the United States.

"We have a big database with lots of information from past Ryder Cups but also how well the Europeans have performed in the last 12 months so we can get a sense of the strengths and weaknesses in different aspects of their game," Blake Wooster, chief executive of UK data analysis company 15th Club, told CNN.

"Our data enables you to dig a lot deeper, so we'll go away and crunch those numbers to give Darren the information he needs to make decisions."

Former Ireland rugby star Paul O'Connell will also address the European team this week in Minnesota.

Meanwhile, Clarke insists winning the last three Ryder Cups is irrelevant as his side embark on their bid to win an unprecedented four in a row.

The team assembled at Hazeltine National Golf Club near Minneapolis on Monday hoping to continue their dominance in the biennial event, which extends to 10 victories and a draw in the last 15 encounters.

Six of the last seven - with Valhalla in 2008 the only exception - have gone the way of Europe and while that has provoked much consternation, hand-wringing and over-examination of processes in the United States Clarke is keen to ensure their past record does not produce any complacency.

"I think it's irrelevant going into this week. Each Ryder Cup is individual in its own rights, " he said.

"We have had different scenarios going on in past Ryder Cups and this is a totally different one where we're currently under the shadow of Mr Palmer's (one of golf's greats Arnold Palmer died on Sunday aged 87) passing away.

"We will pay our respects but come Friday we will be out there battling like the two great teams that we are.

"What I was going to say to the players I'm still going to say to the players but obviously with this passing of the King (as Palmer was known) it's a slightly different perspective on the whole thing now.

"Whatever happens this week it will be another great chapter in the history of the Ryder Cup."

Clarke has stuck mainly to the tried-and-tested formula employed by previous captains in how he has made his selection for players who did not qualify automatically and also his assistants.

That is in contrast to the United States, who employed a specially-assembled task force to look at what was going wrong following the fall-out from the 16 1/2-11 1/2 drubbing at Gleneagles which resulted in players like Phil Mickelson turning on then captain Tom Watson in the immediate aftermath.

Clarke admits he is very much of the opinion that something which is not broken does not need to be fixed.

"I've been doing it the same way as the European Tour keep on doing it," he added.

"Obviously our system has been reasonably successful of late so consequently that would be very foolish of me to try to make any changes to that system.

"The Tour run a very tight ship. They know exactly what happens.

"We didn't have a task force as such. We just keep doing the way that we've been doing it in Europe.

"We've been very fortunate that it's been a formula that seems to be very successful."

Additional reporting by PA

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