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Darren Clarke is the only choice as Ryder Cup captain


Main man: Darren Clarke is hot favourite to be the next Ryder Cup captain

Main man: Darren Clarke is hot favourite to be the next Ryder Cup captain

?INPHO/Getty Images

Main man: Darren Clarke is hot favourite to be the next Ryder Cup captain

It's widely believed that when the five-man selection committee sits down in Wentworth tomorrow to pick the next European Ryder Cup captain, they face a straightforward choice between Darren Clarke and Miguel Angel Jimenez.

In fact, there's no choice.

Jimenez is one of my all-time favourites on Tour. At the age of 51, he's an inspiration, a phenomenon.

Yet as much as I respect his knowledge and salute his commitment to the European Ryder Cup cause, 2016 is not the right time nor is Hazeltine the right place for Jimenez to be Ryder Cup captain.

First and foremost, his English is not good enough.

One only has to see how the public responds to his pre-round exercise routines or readily identifies with his love of Cuban cigars and Rioja to know Jimenez is a naturally gifted communicator.

However, the Ryder Cup now has such mass appeal, with captains competing for the upper hand in the media as well as on the golf course, the man at the helm must be quick, sharp, savvy, subtle and fluent.

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Jimenez struggles with the latter, recent confusion over his desire to be captain being a case in point.

In a Spanish media interview last winter, he gave the impression his playing career was as important to him right now as the captaincy - perfectly reasonable, given his continuing on-course success.

A couple of weeks later, however, Jimenez told an English reporter in Abu Dhabi that he wanted "with a passion" to be captain, leaving those who conducted the original recording utterly perplexed.

There's no room for doubt or misunderstanding in the volatile Ryder Cup arena, where even a small slip can affect the atmosphere in the team room, the reaction of galleries or the public's mood.

Paul McGinley communicated so clearly and so well before and during the 2014 Ryder Cup that his players at all times felt secure in their own role in the team, while his public briefings were inspirational.

While it's vital for the 'home' captain to get the crowd behind his team, polished communication skills are also required by European skippers in the US, especially if America's Ryder Cup 'Task Force' opts for Freddie Couples, a media darling if ever there was one.

Okay, English was not the first language of Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer or Jose Maria Olazabal. Yet Seve was fluent in fire and brimstone, Langer's eloquence in English was matched by meticulous planning, while Olazabal channelled similar passions to Ballesteros … and all three, unlike Jimenez, vitally had left behind their best playing days.

Clarke's popularity in the US is important, even if partly founded on a 'carefree, broth of a boy, Guinness-guzzling, cigar-toting' image that has as much basis in reality as Jimenez's supposed thirst for Rioja.

Critically, he also enjoys support in the team room. Clarke's fellow Ulstermen Rory McIlroy, the kingmaker for McGinley, and Graeme McDowell have already spoken-up strongly in public on his behalf.

Unlike Team USA's losing 2014 captain Tom Watson, who struck an authoritarian stance at Gleneagles after the perceived failure of "captaincy by consensus" in previous US campaigns, McGinley knew his players intimately and acknowledged the supreme importance of involving them in key decisions.

Though his decision not to name Clarke among his vice-captains at Gleneagles gave measure to his personal relationship with the Ulsterman, McGinley will put the wishes and interests of McIlroy and co ahead of all other considerations when it comes to a vote tomorrow.

The five-man committee also includes Olazabal and fellow former captain Colin Montgomerie, plus Tour CEO George O'Grady and Ryder Cup player David Howell.

All five, even compatriot Olazabal, must acknowledge that Jimenez has too much to play for in Europe and on the Champions Tour to devote the time and attention to the Ryder Cup captaincy that, post-McGinley, it now demands.

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