If the United States team think they will merely be facing Europe’s best golfers when they attempt to win only their second Ryder Cup this century, at Hazeltine next year, then Darren Clarke has some bad news.
There will also be contributions from an Australian cricket legend in Shane Warne; a Champions’ League winner in Andriy Schevchenko; a World Cup winner in Mike Tindall; a multiple world boxing champion in Oscar De La Hoya and a Merseyside folklore hero in Robbie Fowler. As well as the traditional record-breaking Scottish football manager.
Indeed, if Paul McGinley enlisted Alex Ferguson as his secret mentor for Gleneagles in 2014, then his successor may well do the same with Kenny Dalglish. The man who guided Liverpool to their one and only League-FA Cup “double” in 1986 was part of the Rest of the World team who played under Clarke in the inaugural staging of the Icons Cup at Dubai Creek, but chat was “general”.
“Kenny gave me some good insight but I’ll get into the nuts and bolts of management with him again as he’s agreed that we’ll see each other in the build-up to Hazeltine,” Clarke said.
“I really got into the heads of some of my other players and I picked up some tidbits which I’m sure will help in my Ryder Cup captaincy. I don’t want to betray confidences but I spoke to Shane about the best captains he played under. I did the same with Robbie and Andriy and Mike explained how Clive [Woodward] oversaw the World Cup win.”
There were others from whom to crib. Kapil Dev, Brian Lara, George Gregan, Luis Figo, Brian O’Driscoll, Stephen Redgrave and Dwight Yorke were his other players, while the opposing ranks included the National Football League great Marcus Allen, as well as Oscar De La Hoya.
For Clarke, who is evidently eager to put at least as much into the role as countryman McGinley, it turned into something of a captaincy workshop. “We are talking the best of the best and it was a great week for me, personally,” he said. “I was dealing with high-handicap golfers, not Rory McIlroy, let’s just say it was a relaxed atmosphere.
“And that allowed me to have a load of in-depth conversations. I was asking questions all the time about what I think might be relevant to be me in the preparations for Hazeltine and actually in the team-room as well. They were all very forthcoming in giving me bits of info. Yeah, I’d say in some respects it has changed my perspective.”
Clarke would not reveal whether the experience had altered his views on Europe’s qualifying system, which he was considering changing. But it is believed that he will now stick with three wildcards, instead of reducing it two.
“There’s a committee meeting at Wentworth at the BMW PGA Championship next month and I’ll probably reach a final decision then,” Clarke said.