Clarke's Tour time wins Monty vote of confidence
Wednesday 21 July 2010
Darren Clarke admits he has not always seen eye to eye with Colin Montgomerie, while Thomas Bjorn once called him "a 40-year-old behaving like a three-year-old". But they, along with Paul McGinley, are to be the Scot's three assistants when he captains Europe in the Ryder Cup in two months' time.
Bjorn and McGinley were always likely to be part of the Celtic Manor back-room team, having been appointed by Montgomerie for last September's Vivendi Trophy match, Continental Europe against Britain and Ireland, in Paris. But Clarke was spoken to only at the Open last week after Montgomerie made "a phone call that I didn't want really to make" to tell Jose Maria Olazabal, whose rheumatism has restricted him to one European Tour appearance all season, that he would not be involved this time.
"I think it's very important nowadays to be part of the Tour – to be playing, to be associated with the players in the locker room, around the course and around the whole Tour," explained Montgomerie.
So he opted for Clarke, despite knowing the Ulsterman could yet force his way on to the side and leave him with a gap. The 41-year-old was runner-up in the Scottish Open two weeks ago and stands 21st in the race for the nine automatic places that ends in six weeks' time.
"I will play if I qualify," Clarke said at the announcement at Wentworth. "I think Monty will want me to if I do. There's no question about that. I possibly could give him a bigger headache. We spoke at length about it and Monty said that he wants me there one way or the other."
Asked if differences have been cast aside for the good of the team, he said: "As with anybody, you are going to have a few things over which you have disagreements, but those are all in the past. Monty will command a huge amount of respect in that team room and I am 100 per cent committed to help him in whatever way I can. Monty wanted to speak to me a couple of weeks ago, but our schedules criss-crossed. We kept missing each other, but last week we sat down and had a chat."
Having gone for three former team-mates – McGinley and Bjorn have won every time they have been involved and Clarke's only defeat in five caps was in Boston in 1999 – makes Montgomerie different not only from his predecessor Sir Nick Faldo, but also his opposite number Corey Pavin. Faldo's only vice-captain was Olazabal, while Pavin has gone for four assistants in the 2006 captain Tom Lehman, Davis Love and two players who have no Ryder Cup experience, Jeff Sluman and Paul Goydos.
Pavin joked yesterday that Montgomerie must be cleverer. "Colin must be quite a bit smarter to only have three. I picked four because I wanted to have an assistant captain walking with each group in the four matches the first two days and to keep an eye on things. That's just my choice and obviously Colin felt three was enough."
It was pointed out to Pavin – at Carnoustie for the Senior British Open which begins tomorrow – that Europe now has nine players in the world's top 20 and the US only six. He responded: "I think we have got four of the world's top five."
Ryder Cup appearances: 3
Wins: 3 (2002, 2004, 2006)
Struck the winning putt which sparked wild celebrations at The Belfry in 2002. Has experience as part of the back-room team as he captained Europe to victory in the 2009 Seve Trophy.
Ryder Cup appearances: 5
Wins: 4 (1997, 2002, 2004, 2006)
Best remembered for his emotional performance at The K Club in 2006 as he won all three of his matches, weeks after the death of his wife Heather.
Ryder Cup appearances: 2
Wins: 2 (1997, 2002)
A chequered career in the Ryder Cup started with a minor role at Valderrama in 1997 before a fruitful partnership with Clarke in 2002. Was notably
outraged after wild-card snub by Ian Woosnam in 2006.
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