It may only have been step one of two in a big year of captaincy duties for Darren Clarke, but the EurAsia Cup could hardly have gone any better for the man tasked with masterminding Europe’s Ryder Cup defence.
Clarke had a very strong group at his disposal and he coaxed a fantastic performance from them as Europe ran out emphatic 18½-5½ winners against Asia in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.
There aren’t many events that offer a glimpse of how players will react in a Ryder Cup – what it is that certain individuals respond well to and what they don’t like – but this was one of them.
As such, Clarke will have kept a particularly close eye on some of the younger players in his party – the likes of Andy Sullivan, Matt Fitzpatrick and Chris Wood.
Sullivan is a prime contender for a Ryder Cup place having won three European Tour titles in a breakthrough season last year and put in a very encouraging display over the three days.
The Englishman was one of three players on Clarke’s side to win all three of their matches, along with his more experienced compatriots Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood.
Experience is everything in team golf, and last week – a big stepping stone for the Ryder Cup in September – would have given Sullivan and the other rookies a taste for it.
For Poulter and Westwood, their brilliant displays were timely reminders of their value. We all know how much Poulter relishes Ryder Cup battle but both he and Westwood have work to do to qualify automatically.
Performances like theirs won’t harm their chances of selection as one of Clarke’s three captain’s picks, should they need it, although he will have been well aware of how well they can perform.
Elsewhere on Sunday there was a thrilling finish at the Sony Open in Hawaii, where Fabian Gomez beat Brandt Snedeker in a play-off to claim his second PGA Tour title in seven months.
It was a big step towards Gomez’s stated dream of playing at the Olympics and elevated him into a select group of Argentinians to have won multiple times on the tour.
Golf fans are treated to their first instalment of Rory McIlroy versus Jordan Spieth this week in Abu Dhabi, and I’d love to see the two rivals for the world No1 spot paired together.
Spieth threw down the gauntlet to Rory when he started the year in extraordinary fashion with an eight-shot win at the Tournament of Champions earlier this month.
I don’t expect McIlroy to become preoccupied with beating Spieth on this occasion. For him, I imagine this tournament – his first of 2016 – is primarily about getting in shape.
Spieth has never played in the Middle East before but the desert conditions should not feel too unfamiliar and ought to suit his game. I predict a big performance from the Texan.