Kevin Garside: Links master Darren Clarke is ideal pick for Ryder Cup at Gleneagles

Ryder Cup vice-captain at Medinah has inspirational quality and emotional impact to succeed Olazabal

The case for Darren Clarke to assume the captaincy of the Ryder Cup in January is irresistible. It is not that the other candidates do not offer worthy credentials, only that they are not as compelling as his. His premature elevation to the role in one newspaper yesterday even provided him with an opportunity to display a little of the statesmanlike gravitas that the job increasingly demands.

In response to his 2014 coronation, Clarke tweeted: "To clarify I have not been offered the Ryder Cup captaincy. It's not decided by the committee until January. Would be a huge honour if asked." The Ryder Cup has grown massively in importance in the past 20 years, acquiring a commercial value that demands a star cast. Clarke's principal rivals for the honour at Gleneagles, Paul McGinley and Thomas Bjorn, his fellow vice-captains at Medinah, are European Tour men to the core.

McGinley memorably stroked the winning putt in 2002. Bjorn, Denmark's greatest golf export, is chairman of the tour's tournament committee. But Clarke has the momentum and the desire.

In the role of vice-captain, Clarke was closely associated with the twin miracles of Medinah and Celtic Manor. In his fifth and final appearance as a player, he was at the centre of a tragic narrative that in terms of emotion eclipsed even those epic tales. At the 2006 Ryder Cup at the K Club, Clarke's wife, Heather, had lost her fight with cancer only weeks before. Despite the shock and grief that enveloped him, Clarke accepted Ian Woosnam's wildcard pick.

No tee shot in the history of the game has carried as much human drama as the blow with which Clarke opened proceedings on that September morning in Dublin. He entered the arena to deafening cheers alongside Lee Westwood. The American captain Tom Lehman embraced him on the tee, whispering words of comfort and encouragement. His opponents, Phil Mickelson and Chris DiMarco, applauded. In this heightened bubble, Clarke put the ball on the tee and smashed it straight down the pipe. A wedge and a putt later, the ball was in the hole, presaging a first point for Europe. We all know how that weekend unfolded.

Clarke's candidacy is not predicated on the sympathy vote. He has been one of Europe's finest golfers. Some would have him the greatest links player from these isles, a gifted ball-striker whose career deserved greater reward than the one major it yielded at Royal St George's last year. His résumé was not bad before the addition of an Open championship. It includes two World Golf Championship victories among 22 worldwide.

Like many charismatic figures Clarke is a complex character. That is often shorthand for awkward cuss, and even he would admit that life for those around him is not always made easy by the demands that he makes. But however tricky it is for others to balance their admiration for him with the frustration that intimacy invites, those difficulties pale when set against the battles he has with himself. Clarke knows what it takes to be great. But golf is a game of imperfections.

Managing the misses is the key to staying sane. Clarke's victory at the Open imposed its own tyranny and exposed his imperfections because he could not tolerate falling short of his own exacting standards.

Happily the Ryder Cup lifts us beyond individual concerns and Clarke is fluent in all its rituals. Picture it now; the mountain setting, cigar ablaze at the wheel of his buggy. Yes, Clarke is made for Gleneagles.

Runners and Ryder: Contenders to lead Europe in 2014

Darren Clarke

The Northern Irishman, who has been a vice-captain for the European team at the last two Ryder Cups, is the current favourite, with odds as short as 8-11. The 44-year-old also played in five Ryder Cups, winning four.

Paul McGinley

The Irishman has been a vice-captain for the last two Ryder Cups, and was also on the winning side in all three he played in, including holding his nerve to sink the winning putt at The Belfry in 2002.

Thomas Bjorn

On all three occasions the Dane has been a vice-captain at the event – 2004, 2010 and 2012 – Europe have won. The 41-year-old was also victorious as a player in the 1997 and 2002 Ryder Cups.

Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'