News that Darren Clarke might withdraw his name for selection as next year’s Ryder Cup captain is good news all around for European golf.
It should, hopefully, pave the way for Paul McGinley to be given the job he rightly deserves.
Speaking during the Volvo Champions in South Africa, Clarke said: “I played much better at the end of last year and have been thinking long and hard about it all over the Christmas break. As much as I would dearly love to be captain, this may not be my time.
“I won one of the biggest prizes in golf by winning the Open, and I am exempt for another three years (into the majors). If I was given the opportunity to do the captaincy I’d effectively be throwing two of those years away. I’m still wrestling with it. It’s a tough one for me, but, to be honest with you, I want to play golf.”
Winning the 2011 British Open gave Clarke a five-year pass into the majors. Given that the Ryder Cup captaincy is a full-time job, he would not be giving himself the best chance of performing well in those majors if he took the Ryder Cup job. His chance will come in 2016.
McGinley’s nomination should be a rubber stamp job when the European Tour’s tournament committee meets in Abu Dhabi on Jan. 15 to discuss who will succeed Jose Maria Olazabal as captain. He and Clarke are the main candidates.
Colin Montgomerie’s name has also surfaced for the 2014 job. He somehow came into the frame in the wake of Tom Watson’s appointment as US captain. The logic seems to be that Montgomerie would be the sort of personality who would come closest to matching Watson’s status in the game.
Of course, he’s also a natural fit for 2014 since he’s Scottish, lives near Gleneagles and has a close association with the five-star resort. However, the European Tour’s tournament committee would be breaking its own unwritten rule of choosing captains under the age of 50 still playing on the regular tour if it were to select Montgomerie.
After Sir Nick Faldo’s disastrous 2008 captaincy at Valhalla, the committee vowed that in future it would only select players under age 50 and still active on the regular tour. Montgomerie will be 51 when the teams meet at Gleneagles.
Quite why the European Tour needs to follow the PGA of America’s lead is a mystery, anyway. While Watson is one of the greatest names in the game and commands huge respect, his appointment smacks of desperation on the part of the PGA of America.
Europe doesn’t need to take similar steps, as tournament committee chairman Thomas Bjorn said in South Africa.
“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,” he said.
While there will be members of the 15-man committee pushing Montgomerie’s name — most likely Swede Henrik Stenson, the man responsible for ensuring the Scot got the 2010 job — McGinley should be named as captain.
The 46-year-old Dubliner commands huge respect on the European Tour. He has acted as vice captain in the last two matches, and has served as captain of the Great Britain & Ireland team in the Seve Trophy.
He is a huge over-achiever whose knowledge of the game is vast. He has the required nous to lead Europe next year. McGinley is the man for Gleneagles.