Paul McGinley appears to be the front-runner to become Europe’s Ryder Cup captain for 2014, though he faces a late challenge from former captain Colin Montgomerie.
McGinley received the backing of top-ranked Rory McIlroy, who tweeted his support for the 46-year-old Irishman on Sunday and followed it up Monday with a ringing endorsement.
”I played under Paul at the Seve Trophy in 2009 and felt he did an unbelievable job,” McIlroy said. ”Of any captain I’ve played under, he was the best. . . . He doesn’t leave any stone unturned and gives confidence in the team room.”
McIlroy said McGinley would be a better choice than Montgomerie, who guided Europe to victory over the United States at Celtic Manor in 2010 and is hoping to captain the side again at Gleneagles in 2014.
”I don’t feel Monty has anything to gain by this,” McIlroy said. ”If we go to Gleneagles and lose, he is already a winning Ryder Cup captain. I am fully behind Paul. He should get the job.”
Third-ranked Luke Donald added his backing for McGinley on Monday, saying on Twitter that the Irishman had been an ”amazing” vice captain for Europe over the past two Ryder Cups and ”deserves an opportunity.”
Europe’s leading two players spoke out a day before the European Tour’s tournament committee meets in Abu Dhabi to consider the 2014 captaincy.
While he doesn’t have the success of Montgomerie on the course, McGinley clearly has the credentials. He has been on three Ryder Cup-winning teams and was vice captain for Europe in 2010 and for the improbable comeback win last year at Medinah.
Montgomerie’s chances to become captain again improved last week after Darren Clarke all but took himself out of the race.
”Obviously, it would be a dream come true if I could be seen to be captain at home in Scotland,” Montgomerie said in South Africa, where he played at the Volvo Champions. ”It will be a great honor. It seemed to be between Darren and Paul and now my name seems to be mentioned an awful lot, so we will see.”
Clarke and McGinley had long been the two main candidates to replace Jose Maria Olazabal.
But Clarke, the 2011 British Open Champion, said in South Africa that he was wary of taking on the captaincy because of his playing commitments.
”I am exempt for another three years (for major events) and, if I was given the opportunity to do the captaincy, I’d effectively be throwing two of those years away,” Clarke said.
Montgomerie said he could sympathize with Clarke’s dilemma.
”I can fully understand where Darren is coming from, especially given the exemptions he still has into the majors as you want to use them when you can still play,” he said. ”Because we’re close friends he knows it took a year and a half out of my career. If you come back after a year and a half out you might not be able to use those exemptions to the same potential.”
The Americans last month picked Tom Watson to captain the US team at Gleneagles. Watson will be 65 when the event starts, making him by far the oldest man to fill the role and the first repeat captain for the United States since 1987. But he’s also the last American to lead the team to victory on the road in 1993, and he knows how to win in the blustery Scottish weather.
The Europeans have insisted the choice of Watson won’t influence their own decision.
”As a committee voting for a new European captain we don’t have to react to Tom Watson’s appointment as Europe’s record in past years is pretty impressive,” Thomas Bjorn, the longtime member of the European committee, said.
Still, Bjorn acknowledged that Watson has the potential to overshadow anyone Europe chooses.
”If Tom Watson is in the room or he’s in a press conference, he will clearly have the edge and that is different compared to someone who has competed in your own generation,” Bjorn said. ”But then Tom Watson deserves that right and that respect for everyone to listen to what he says. But as far as needing to be seen appointing someone to match Tom Watson, that will not happen.”