Golf Comment: Time is right for classy Clarke to lead Europe’s Ryder Cup defence

 
Sam Torrance
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Darren Clarke has experience and is popular with players
IT WAS four years ago that Darren Clarke gave the ideal illustration of his Ryder Cup captaincy credentials with a peerless acceptance speech, having ended his wait for a Major by winning the Open at Royal St George’s.

Clarke is by no means the only worthy contender when a five-man selection panel meets imminently to choose the man to mastermind Europe’s defence of the trophy at Hazeltine next year, with Thomas Bjorn and Miguel Angel Jimenez also likely to be mentioned.

But their time will come; this is Darren’s. At 46, he is the right age, is not in the running to qualify as a player – unlike Bjorn – and has the required experience and pedigree. He is a Major winner and has won on the PGA Tour – defeating Tiger Woods, no less, to win the WGC-Matchplay Championship in 2000 – which has added significance, since the Ryder Cup will be contested in America, where he is a popular figure.

EXPERIENCE
Clarke is well-liked by his peers, and showed why with that speech after winning the Open at the 20th attempt. It’s not easy to control your emotions in those situations but he was very impressive, and there was nobody he forgot to thank.

He will be helped no end by his experience as a vice-captain to Colin Montgomerie at Celtic Manor in 2010. I learned more about how to be a captain by being vice-captain, such as just how much work goes on behind the scenes months and months before the contest itself.

Montgomerie, Jose Maria Olazabal and Paul McGinley – Europe’s last three captains – will make the decision with European Tour chief executive George O’Grady and David Howell, the playing representative nominated by the Tour committee.

RAISED THE BAR
Europe may have won eight of the last 10 Ryder Cups but we have seen just how much of a difference a good captain can make – that’s been well established. Clarke – if chosen – will have his own style, but what is clear is that McGinley raised the bar with his expert handling of the role last year at Gleneagles.

Sam Torrance OBE is a multiple Ryder Cup-winning golfer and media commentator. Follow him on Twitter @torrancesam

THE CONTENDERS

Darren Clarke
■ Popular, a Major winner and vice-captain to Colin Montgomerie when Europe won at Celtic Manor in 2010

Thomas Bjorn
■ Part of three successful Ryder Cup teams and showed his captaincy credentials in the Seve Trophy

Miguel Angel Jimenez
■ European Tour’s oldest winner is a veteran of four Ryder Cups and led Europe at the EurAsia Cup last year