Darren Clarke told BBC Sport in Qatar that he believes the 2016 European Ryder Cup Captaincy is a two-horse race between himself and Miguel Angel Jimenez
At one stage, 2011 Open champion Darren Clarke, was favourite for the 2014 captaincy which was eventually awarded to Paul McGinley, perhaps the main reason for the rift between the two, with Clarke ultimately appearing to offer support for Monty’s bid to take on the role again in preference to McGinley.
This time round, it seems the Irishman is favourite once more for the European Ryder Cup captaincy at Hazeltine in 2016, with Clarke telling BBC Sports in Qatar that he feels it is a two-horse race between himself and Miguel Angel Jimenez: “At the moment it would look as if it’s two of us – Miguel and myself – and I’m sure whoever the committee decide will do a great job.”
So is it just between the two of them? There are probably four names of the right stature and experience in the frame, so here’s our quick assessment of their chances…
On paper, yes he is the favourite, given his longstanding association with the event and the raft of emotion and support his performance on home soil at the K Club in 2006 generated. Counting against him may be a desire to avoid two Irish captains on the spin – even though McGinley is from the south and Clarke from the North – and the fact that McGinley is part of the committee working towards a March announcement. Even though that committee must be as objective as possible, it’s hard to imagine Clarke getting McGinley’s vote given their strained relationship.
The Spaniard has become a hugely popular figure with golf fans and the media, and the fact that he can still play a bit the wrong side of 50 means he is still out there week in, week out competing hard with the players he would be captaining. His grasp of English has undoubtedly improved in recent years too with regard to any public speaking and interview duties, but given how well he is still playing, will he want to allow the pressures and duties of the captaincy role to potentially affect his still-thriving golf game as previous evidence suggests they surely will?
His return to form, and return to the Ryder Cup team last time round, will have strengthened his cause, as will his influential role as chairman of the European Tour Tournament Committee. Counting against him could be the furore surrounding his highly public and personal criticism of 2006 captain Ian Woosnam when the Welshman overlooked him for one of his picks. At 43, possibly a touch young still as well.
At 43, possibly still too young too, though the downward spiral in his playing abilities does mean people are thinking of him more as a future Ryder Cup captain now than a player. Appears to have withdrawn his name from the hat anyway, believing Clarke is a “shoo-in” for the 2016 role. Will undoubtedly get the job at some stage.
McGinley revealed in January that the views of the players are playing a large part in the process and that a decision is now close, with an announcement likely in early March.