Darren Clarke’s hopes of becoming the next European Ryder Cup captain were boosted Wednesday when one of the continent’s top players gave his backing to the 2011 British Open champion.
Fourth-ranked Lee Westwood, who made his eighth Ryder Cup appearance in Europe’s thrilling win over the United States in Medinah last month, compared Clarke favorably to the Irishman’s supposed leading rival for the captaincy, compatriot Paul McGinley.
”If I were asked to pick, it would be Darren Clarke,” said Westwood, speaking from the World Golf Finals in Turkey. ”He has been a Ryder Cup stalwart for many years. The one at the K Club (in 2006) will be remembered for him, his great performance under the stress of what he was going through at the time.
”He is a major champion, a very good public speaker, which has to be taken into account. Tactically, he is very astute. I think he has a lot going for him.”
The momentum seems to be behind Clarke, but a decision on who will be Jose Maria Olazabal’s successor will not be announced before January.
”To clarify..I have not been offered the Ryder Cup captaincy,” Clarke said Wednesday in a Twitter post. ”It’s not decided by the committee until January.Would be a huge honor if asked.”
Europe has never had an Irish captain in any of its 17 series against the United States since their first meeting in 1979.
Top-ranked Rory McIlroy has also supported Clarke’s claims, but said his fellow Ulsterman may be better suited to the 2016 edition in the United States because of his popularity in the country.
The 2014 Ryder Cup will be held in Gleneagles, Scotland – on a PGA Centenary course Clarke was critical of in 2007. His views have softened since then in view of modifications to the layout.
Westwood said McGinley, who has captained Britain & Ireland teams in the Vivendi Trophy, makes a ”great vice captain” – the position he held at this year’s Ryder Cup, along with Clarke.
But Westwood added: ”Paul has played three Ryder Cups; Darren has played five, won a major championship and a lot of other tournaments worldwide. You have to have a criteria somewhere, and he edges it for me.”
British bookmaker William Hill has made Clarke favorite over McGinley for the 2014 tournament.