Ryder Cup 2016: Darren Clarke carried towards captaincy by player power

Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez and Denmark's Thomas Bjorn are the other candidates in the frame

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The Independent Online

Darren Clarke is expected to be unveiled today as the man to lead Europe in the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National, Minnesota next year.

A five-man committee, including the past three captains, assembles at the European Tour headquarters at Wentworth today to name the 2016 skipper.

Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez and Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn are the other candidates in the frame, but the overwhelming support of the players appears to have swung the vote Clarke’s way.

The outgoing captain, Paul McGinley, who owed his appointment at Gleneagles to the influence of key players, led by world No 1 Rory McIlroy, said their voice overrides all other considerations.

Since the likes of McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter have made known their support of Clarke, it would be a shock were their sentiments to be overlooked in favour of Spain’s Jimenez.

That said, the appointment of Davis Love III, leaked by the Golf Channel in the US overnight, to return as America’s captain ahead of Fred Couples, demonstrates that not all conclusions are as foregone as they might appear.

Love, who surrendered what looked an unassailable 10-4 lead at Medinah three years ago, is set to be confirmed next week at the PGA of America headquarters in Florida ahead of the Honda Challenge.

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Darren Clarke was vice-captain for Europe's 2012 triumph in Medinah, which was led by Jose Maria Olazabal, left (Getty)

Jimenez is a hugely popular figure on tour and presumably has the support of his fellow Spaniard Jose-Maria Olazabal, who led Europe to that most thrilling of conquests at Medinah at Love’s expense.

But Clarke, who was always thought to be particularly suited to the challenge of leadership on American soil given his popularity in the United States, has 2010 captain Colin Montgomerie in his corner and McGinley on side despite their past differences.

Tensions between the two estranged friends first emerged following the death of Clarke’s first wife Heather and deepened when Clarke announced his candidature, subsequently withdrawn, for the role at Gleneagles, counter to a pledge not to run that McGinley understood he had made. Time has proved a healer and McGinley made it clear in his post-Gleneagles pronouncements that he would never allow private issues to cloud his judgment.

 

Clarke said: “If it’s Miguel I would be delighted for him, but I would love to do the job. To be the captain is huge, but he is only there to steer the players. It’s not about the captain, it’s about the team.

“I’ve got special memories of the event and I’m fortunate to have played in many winning teams. Those memories I will cherish for ever.”

The emergence of Love in the States runs counter to popular sentiment, and follows a period of introspection and inquiry led by Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in a specially arranged task force.

The decision was broadcast by respected commentator Tim Rosaforte, and subsequently reported  by other media outlets, though not confirmed by the PGA of America.

Points in the bag: Clarke's Ryder Cups

1997, Valderrama 1 point

1999, Brookline 2 points

2002, The Belfry 2 points

2004, Oakland Hills 3.5 points

2006, K Club 3 points

Total 11.5 points (20 matches, W10 L7 H3)

2010, Celtic Manor Vice-captain

2012, Medinah Vice-captain

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