With the announcement that Darren Clarke will be the next European Ryder Cup captain, Neil Tappin takes a look at the key attributes the Northern Irishman brings to the team
1 Player knowledge. Although he may not be fighting it out consistently at the top of leaderboards, Darren Clarke is still competing on Tour regularly and will know any potential team members fairly well. One of the criticisms of Tom Watson’s US captaincy last time out was the apparent separation between the players and the management. With Clarke at the helm, we have a man who knows the strengths and weaknesses of each individual player and will be well suited to picking winning pairings. A must for any successful captain.
2 Ryder Cup experience. Clarke has played in five Ryder Cups and the only time he was on the losing team was at the infamous encounter at Brookline. Playing under the likes of Berhard Langer, Ian Woosnam and Sam Torrance has left him with a wealth of invaluable experience. Add to this his winning experience as a Vice Captain at Celtic Manor and Medinah and the 46 year old should know what it takes to win.
3 Respect. As anyone who has interviewed the Northern Irishman knows, he can be a rather intimidating figure. This could work both for and against him as captain but there is no doubting that his presence as well as his record on the course, will demand the respect not only of his team but of the opposition as well.
4 Public popularity. In 2006 Darren Clarke lost his wife Heather to cancer. His return to the public stage at the Ryder Cup just a few weeks later created one of the most emotional scenes in the history of the game. Few people who saw his opening drive at the K Club that year will forget that spine-tingling moment. Five years later the Northern Irishman became a major-winner. His triumph at the 2011 Open at Royal St George’s completed his journey into the hearts of the nation. One of his biggest assets to team Europe will be his undoubted popularity with the public.
Watch this slow motion swing sequence of European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke
5 International experience. For over a decade Darren Clarke was one of Europe’s truly global stars. Competing regularly on both sides of the Atlantic, he consistently went head-to-head with the world’s best on foreign solid. Furthermore, in 2000 he beat Tiger Woods in the final of the WGC World Matchplay. As such there will be no hidden surprises either for Clarke or the American public.
6 Relationships with key players. In the early part of Rory McIlroy’s career, Darren Clarke was something of a mentor. In the same management stable, Clarke’s guiding hand over his young protégé has been a major factor in the career progression of McIlroy. Clarke and Graeme McDowell both call Portrush home and the Northern Irishman is famously close to Lee Westwood. Throw in the fact that is also part of the same TaylorMade stable as Justin Rose and Martin Kaymer and Clarke’s relationships with key players could prove vital.
7 Life experience. Perhaps the most important role of the captain is to create a team atmosphere amongst a group of players who usually compete against each other. Behind the closed doors of the team room, we would expect Clarke to inspire his team with eloquent, powerful speeches. If he can use these to unite his players, there is no reason why Europe cannot continue their Ryder Cup winning streak.