Darren Clarke is still riding high after Ryder Cup captaincy
A month after his official appointment to the role, Northern Ireland major winner Darren Clarke revealed at Heathrow Airport today that he was still on cloud nine after receiving what he described as the “highest honour” from The European Tour.
The 46-year-old Northern Irishman has, of course, the game’s greatest prize – The Open Championship – already in his trophy cabinet back home, but away from the playing side, Clarke took time out to reflect on what it meant to him to be given the task of retaining The Ryder Cup for Europe.
“The highest honour the European Tour can bestow on any of its members is The Ryder Cup captaincy,” he said. “So imagine my sense of joy, pride and in some ways relief when the call came through from Ryder Cup Director Richard Hills inviting me to lead Europe into the 2016 match against the USA.
“The more I played in The Ryder Cup, the more I wanted to become captain and, to be honest, if I could have chosen where and when, then it would have been in America and now. I have thoroughly enjoyed playing there and I have always felt very welcome, so I am particularly delighted that everything I wanted has come to fruition.”
The location for the media day was appropriate for two reasons. Firstly, it was Heathrow Airport itself where, as a Vice Captain to José María Olazábal, Clarke returned as part of the triumphant ‘Miracle of Medinah’ team on Monday October 1, 2012.
Secondly, of course, it will also be the location from where, in 554 days’ time, the Northern Irishman departs to mastermind the trophy defence against the United States at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota.
Aside from a range of television and broadcast interviews in a hotel opposite Terminal Five, Clarke took time out to pose for his first official pictures with the newly reconstituted Ryder Cup Trophy, which has had an additional golden band added just above its base since Europe’s triumph at Gleneagles last September, to accommodate the results of the matches going forward.
And the 2011 Open Champion is in no doubt what result he wants to see embossed in the gold come October 2, 2016.
“Europe has a chance to make history by winning the Ryder Cup for the fourth time in succession and I am absolutely thrilled to have that opportunity,” said Clarke.
“But, whatever happens, I will also do everything in my power to ensure the good name of the game and the true spirit of this incredible match is carried forward.
“What made this honour even more amazing is that Davis Love III has been elected American captain. We have been very good friends ever since I first started playing in America and I have the upmost respect for him as both a player and a person. It won’t stop me doing everything I possibly can to ensure the European team beats his, but whatever the result we will remain friends first and foremost.”
Belfast Telegraph Digital