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Darren Clarke's day as player power looks to swing Ryder Cup captaincy


Announcement: Darren Clarke

Announcement: Darren Clarke

Getty Images

Announcement: Darren Clarke

Darren Clarke is expected to be unveiled today as the next European Ryder Cup captain.

A five-man committee will assemble at the European Tour HQ at Wentworth to name the 2016 skipper.

Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez and Denmark's Thomas Bjorn are also in the frame, but the overwhelming support of the players appears to have swung the vote in favour of the Ulsterman (left) getting the nod for Hazeltine.

Outgoing captain Paul McGinley, who owed his appointment to the influence of key players, led by Clarke's compatriot and world No 1 Rory McIlroy, said their voice overrides all other considerations.

And 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.

Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia, meanwhile, are the latest big names to confirm their attendance alongside local heroes Clarke, McIlroy and McDowell at this year's Irish Open.

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.

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following the death of Clarke’s first wife Heather and deepened when Clarke announced his candidature, subsequently withdrawn, for the role at Gleneagles, counter to a pledge not to run that McGinley understood he had made.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 very 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.

Paul Azinger has, however, welcomed reports that Love will captain the team for the second time.

Azinger, the last US captain to lift the trophy in 2008, and threetime Presidents Cup-winning captain Fred Couples were the favourites to succeed Tom Watson and attempt to end a run of three straight defeats.

“If true, I believe that Davis is an excellent choice to lead U.S. Ryder Cup in 2016,” Azinger wrote on Twitter.

The 55-year-old added in texts to Golf Channel.com: “He’s still connected to the players. He was very prepared and thorough in 2012. Davis will bring much needed continuity to the process.”

Belfast Telegraph