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Darren ready to dazzle 'em

But Clarke set to face tough opposition for 2016 lead role

By Kevin Garside

The race to be Europe's next Ryder Cup captain has begun before the champagne has fallen flat, with Darren Clarke an early front runner.

Clarke's status as a Major winner and his bold personality are seen as an ideal combination to lead the team in the United States, where the next Ryder Cup takes place at Hazeltine, Minnesota, in 2016.

He had put his name forward to lead the European team at Gleneagles, a move which caused friction with the eventual captain Paul McGinley, to whom Clarke had first offered support before deciding to run himself. Clarke subsequently dropped out of the race, suggesting pointedly that Colin Montgomerie would be the ideal candidate to take on Tom Watson.

Graeme McDowell, a key member of McGinley's triumphant team last week, has urged the two to call a truce to allow his fellow Ulsterman a run at the post.

"Darren and Paul should put their differences aside," he said.

"Darren needs to spend some time talking to Paul about the way he (McGinley) has conducted himself this week. Paul commanded a huge amount of respect in the team room and was the best captain I have ever played under by far and that's no disrespect to any of the other captains."

Clarke can expect some hefty competition from the likes of Padraig Harrington and Miguel Angel Jimenez, both vice captains to McGinley, and Thomas Bjorn, a former vice captain who returned to the team as a player for the first time in 12 years at Gleneagles.

The responsibility for selecting the captain has rested since 1999 with the European Tour's tournament committee but changes last year handed responsibility to the previous three captains, McGinley, Jose-Maria Olazabal and Montgomerie, the European Tour chief executive, George O'Grady, and a member of the committee.

McGinley has assured the Tour that his personal views of Clarke will not be a factor.

"Absolutely no problem whatsoever. I'm going to be very professional in my input," he said. "I'm going to get opinions from a lot of players and a lot of people before I put my opinion forward. Just like I was very much pushed over the line by the players.

"I'm part of the decision-making process. That's something we will discuss over the next few months. I think we're very fortunate in Europe, a little bit like the Liverpool soccer team and the boot room, I think a lot of us have benefited hugely from being vice-captains.

"Darren has been a vice-captain along with many other guys. We will see where that all evolves and I'll make a professional decision based on the views of people that I respect."

Whoever is announced, they will go forward without the help of McGinley in a vice-captain's role.

"I can't see myself doing that again, but having said that, I'm very happy to help in an unofficial way and advise them and help them in any way, a little bit like Sir Alex Ferguson did this week for me," he said.

"I bounced ideas off him. He didn't preach to me. He didn't tell me what to do, but what he did was he solidified my ideas and he gave me confidence that, yeah, my hunches were right.

McGinley was among the last to leave the post match-party, seeing his players off to bed one last time. Before he retired, he received a text from Luke Donald, the player he phoned first after the team was agreed, to tell him he was not one of the picks.

"That still eats away at me; a guy like that who was so supportive of me to be captain and has been a great Ryder Cup player over the years, that was a tough call. I made tough calls during the week."

"Ian Poulter not playing in the second afternoon, when all along I had thought that he was going to play, and he thought he was going to play. And at the 11th hour, I decided Martin Kaymer, to break up that dynamic of Poulter and Rose which has been so successful.

"The way Ian Poulter accepted that decision, I mean, he came out to me on the golf course in the afternoon and he was consoling me," said McGinley.

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