Rory McIlroy completes chorus of big names backing Darren Clarke as Europe’s next captain

McIlroy says Clarke would be "perfect man" to lead Europe in 2016

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The clamour for Darren Clarke to be crowned Ryder Cup captain early next year has bypassed the bandwagon stage and progressed to full-on endorsement.

The cabal of former captains and European Tour representatives need only bring a rubber stamp to their meetings ahead of the formal announcement at Abu Dhabi in January of the man to lead Europe at Hazeltine in 2016.

Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood and Colin Montgomerie were joined yesterday by Martin Kaymer and the most powerful voice of all, Rory McIlroy, in proclaiming the suitability of the 2011 Open champion.

“There’s been a few names thrown about and I’ve said, with the next Ryder Cup being in America, I feel that Darren Clarke would be the perfect man to lead the team, just because he has such a great reputation everywhere, but especially in the States. The fans really love him there and he’s got a good rapport with everyone,” said McIlroy.

The world No 1’s Ryder Cup team-mate Kaymer concurred. “I believe that Darren Clarke is the next one in line,” the German said. “Thomas [Bjorn] will be a very good captain as well one day, but I think he’s still playing too good to be captain in America in two years’ time. So I believe the chances for Darren Clarke are quite high right now.”

The decision is in the hands of the three most recent captains, Paul McGinley, Jose Maria Olazabal and Montgomerie, plus the European Tour chief executive, George O’Grady, and one representative of the tournament committee.

McIlroy’s rocketing status in the game was further substantiated yesterday with the PGA Tour Player of the Year award. He will have to fall off a cliff not to add to his collection as the season rolls to a close, starting perhaps at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, where he competes this week with his father.

McIlroy described the pro-am jamboree that takes place at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns as the perfect decompression after the Ryder Cup frenzy at Gleneagles last weekend. St Andrews was also the place seven years ago where he earned his European Tour card for the first time. McIlroy’s fast-tracking into the professional ranks was predicated on a brilliant amateur career, but even he would not have expected to script a story to rival at the age of 25 the output of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.

A fortnight’s rest follows the closing of the Scottish chapter and then he is off round the world to contest first the Grand Slam of Golf, a fantasy fourball with the season’s major winners in Bermuda, back-to-back events in China, the Dubai World Championship and finally his defence of the Australian Open, which a year ago signalled his return to form.

“I’d love to win a couple of those events and I’m playing well enough to do that. The Race to Dubai and winning that for a second time is a big goal of mine. I’ve got a pretty healthy lead at the minute and if I do well this week, hopefully I can make that insurmountable over the next few weeks and go from there.”

McIlroy tees off tomorrow with father Gerry in a group that also includes Charl Schwartzel. This is the week when stars of stage and screen mix with people who do stuff for real. Hugh Grant, Samuel L Jackson, Kyle MacLachlan and Fifty Shades of Grey star Jamie Dornan are among the theatre types indulging their golfing fantasies alongside football’s golf pack, led by Jamie Redknapp and Alan Hansen.