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McIlroy backs Clarke

Rory McIlroy has once again given his support to Darren Clarke as the battle to become the next European Ryder Cup captain looks to be coming down to a two-horse race.

Clarke has long been the front-runner for the role with European Tour veterans Thomas Bjorn and Miguel Angel Jimenez and former captain Colin Montgomerie also thought to be in the frame to lead the team at Hazeltine in 2016.

But Clarke revealed on Tuesday that he believes the battle is now between himself and Jimenez and, speaking ahead of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, McIlroy has given his backing to his countryman.

"I'm going to be a little biased, Darren is a good friend of mine and from Northern Ireland, so it would be great to see him get the captaincy, but if it was to be Miguel then I'd have no problems with that either," McIlroy told a press conference.

"They are going to have a tough decision."

He added: "I always thought Darren would be a perfect fit for captaincy in the States.

"People love him over there and he'll do well, but people love Miguel anywhere he goes and the more he plays on the Champions Tour he's going to become more popular as well.

"They are both quality candidates and great players. As long as I'm on the team and they decide to play me I'm happy enough."

The decision, which is expected to be made in the next few weeks, will be taken by a committee consisting of former Ryder Cup captains Paul McGinley, Jose Maria Olazabal and Montgomerie, European Tour chief executive George O'Grady and tournament committee nominee David Howell.

McIlroy's comments came after Clarke on Tuesday admitted that the next captain was likely to be either himself or Jimenez.

"It's not up to me," he told BBC Northern Ireland. "It's up to the guys on the committee to decide and obviously, at the moment, it would look as if it's down to two of us being Miguel and myself.

"And I'm sure whoever the committee decide will do a great job."

He added: "Those guys all have a lot of experience in having done it before - three previous captains - so we'll see what happens."

World number two Henrik Stenson agreed with that opinion at is own pre-tournament press conference and was backed up by Ryder Cup stalwart Sergio Garcia.

"Well, I think most likely we're going to see a race between Darren and Miguel," said Stenson.

"I mean, that's beauty of being a part of the tournament committee that no longer votes for it, I don't have to put any thought into it. I just have to wait like everybody else until the result comes out.

"I think we've got a lot of capable candidates for captaincy. We'll just have to wait and see. My guess is as good as yours."

Garcia added: " I think those are the two big candidates for the captaincy, and I think we are all excited to see how it turns out."

The European team will head to Minnesota looking to win a fourth consecutive Ryder Cup after their 16.5-11.5 victory at Gleaneagles last year.

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