Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Darren Clarke eager to lead 2014 Ryder Cup side

Darren Clarke

Darren Clarke is setting his sights on the 2014 Ryder Cup captaincy.

The popular Ulsterman has been named by current captain Jose Maria Olazabal along with Thomas Bjorn and Paul McGinley as the three vice-captains for next month’s contest at Medinah in Illinois.

He faces stiff competition from McGinley and a number of other eminently qualified candidates for the job at Gleneagles in two years’ time.

Clarke is playing in next week’s Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles for the first time in four years after he criticised the greens at the Jack Nicklaus-designed course.

It’s a move obviously designed to appease the powers that be, although naturally Clarke wouldn’t say as much.

“I wasn’t initially playing Gleneagles, but they’ve made changes which I believe are good, so that’s why I’m good to play,” he said.

McGinley, who holed the winning putt at the Belfry in 2002, makes no secret of his burning desire to captain the European team.

The Dubliner has put in the donkey work, captaining the Great Britain and Ireland side to Vivendi Seve Trophy success.

Clarke was actually offered that role, but ended up qualifying for the team and playing on the back of his Open triumph at Sandwich last year.

There is no shortage of candidates for the 2014 job and Bjorn is another obvious contender. The other fly in the ointment for Clarke may be Colin Montgomerie, victorious captain at Celtic Manor two years ago, who has dropped some none-too-subtle hints that he’d like the job again in his native Scotland.

By naming Clarke, McGinley and Bjorn Olazabal is keeping together the team named by Monty at Celtic Manor as all four served under the Scot.

Clarke has accepted that his days as a Ryder Cup players are over, although he badly wanted to have one more shot in Chicago this year.

Off the course, though, his stock continues to rise. He performed his role as unofficial ambassador for Royal Portrush in the run-up to and during the Irish Open in June with distinction.

His success in five cups marks him out as a front runner for the job and there is no doubt that he would be an immensely popular choice with the players.