The Next European Ryder Cup Captain
Post by Sports Writer Derek Clements
The manouevring has already begun. Rory McIlroy has hinted that he would support Darren Clarke as the next European Ryder Cup captain - the same Darren Clarke who put his considerable weight behind Colin Montgomerie being appointed captain at Gleneagles over Paul McGinley, even though Monty had captained Europe four years earlier.
Padraig Harrington, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Thomas Bjorn will be the other three leading contenders. All have their merits.
Harrington and Clarke both fulfil the American criteria in that they have won majors but, as has been shown with the captaincy of Bernard Gallacher, Sam Torrance, Colin Montgomerie and McGinley, success in the majors doesn't matter a jot in the European thinking - and nor should it.
What is important is that the captain knows the players, competes with them and has their respect. He must also be able to buy into the European system, one that is well established and, more importantly, one that works - as has been proved with eight victories in the past ten contests. Those successes have not come by accident.
There is a slight complication with Bjorn in that he is chairman of the European Tour's tournament committee and is one of the men who chooses the next captain. Needless to say, if he feels there is a groundswell of opinion in favour of him leading the side at Hazeltine, it would a simple enough matter for him to either resign the post or abstain when the vote is taken.
Harrington has won three majors and is one of the most successful European players of all time but passionately believes that, even at the age of 43, he can still recapture his best form and perhaps even qualify for the team again. That may or may not be case but while he believes it to be so, he must be discounted. Apart from anything else, while Harrington plans everything meticulously when it comes to his game, he is quite a flaky individual and may not be ideal captaincy material.
Clarke is a popular character, but does he possess the gravitas to act as a captain? And many people have yet to forgive him for supporting Montgomerie for Gleneagles when McGinley was both the obvious and popular choice.
And so that brings us to dear old Jimenez. It is easily forgotten that he was a vice-captain as long ago as 1997 when Seve Ballesteros' eccentric captaincy somehow saw Europe over the line at Valderamma. That was the Ryder Cup when Ballesteros wanted to hit so many of his players' shots, and Jimenez was the man who took all the bizarre phone calls in the middle of the night from Seve.
He was also a vice-captain at Gleneagles, where he was popular with both the players and the fans. At 50, he is still winning on the main tour, is close to the current crop of players and came close to making the team this time. If common sense prevails, he will be the man who gets the nod - and you can be certain that his team will not go short of rioja or fun.
Photo Credit: TourProGolfClubs.com
Derek Clements is a sports journalist with a particular passion for golf with over 12 years of experience covering golf and other sports including Chief Sub-Editor on the sports desk of The Sunday Times. To contact Derek email direct via [email protected]
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