DARREN Clarke, the long-time bookmakers’ favourite, has thrown a massive spanner in the works over the 2014 Ryder Cup captaincy after admitting the match at Gleneagles “may not be my time”.
Speaking at the Volvo Golf Champions in South Africa, the 2011 Open champion said he was “wrestling” over his position ahead of next week’s European Tour tournament committee meeting in Abu Dhabi.
According to a report soon after Europe’s dramatic victory at Medinah last autumn, Clarke had been earmarked for the role ahead of fellow Irishman Paul McGinley.
In a dramatic twist, however, Clarke confirmed what fellow committee member Henrik Stenson had hinted in The Scotsman yesterday that he may no longer be in the frame by the time Tuesday’s meeting takes place in the UAE capital.
“As much as I would dearly love to be captain, this may not be my time,” said Clarke, a five-time Ryder Cup player and an assistant captain to both Colin Montgomerie and Jose Maria Olazabal in the last two matches.
“To be honest with you, if I do withdraw my whatever – I haven’t been proposed and you’ve got to be proposed – it is something I have given a great deal of thought to because whenever I was initially mentioned I wasn’t playing very well.
“I played much better at the end of last year and have been thinking long and hard about it all over the Christmas break.”
Clarke said that the five-year exemption he secured for the PGA Tour by winning The Open at Sandwich was one factor that was weighing on his mind.
“I secured one of the biggest prizes in golf by winning The Open and I am exempt for another three years [in the States] and if I was given the opportunity to do the captaincy I’d effectively be throwing two of those years away,” he added.
“I’m still wrestling with it. I know I’m going to be asked at the start of the meeting [are you part of this equation?]. It’s a tough one for me but, to be honest with you, I want to play golf.”
If Clarke decides not to throw his hat in the ring, it would make McGinley the clear favourite, though Montgomerie’s case for a second stint might also be strengthened if the committee decide they need someone with a bit more stature than the Irishman to match American captain Tom Watson.
“It would be very remiss of me to speak to you guys without speaking to my fellow committee members,” said a diplomatic Clarke. “We’ll see what happens, but I am not doing any favours for anybody else. Essentially I’m a professional golfer and, having played a bit better at the end of last year, I want to play golf.”
Asked if stepping back on this occasion might help him secure the 2016 captaincy in America, Clarke said: “That’s not up to me. It’s down to the committee and I would imagine we’ll only be talking about this captaincy.” That was reference to the fact it had been suggested a double appointment could be an option, as was the case when Ian Woosnam and Nick Faldo were appointed for the 2006 and 2008 jousts respectively.
“I think it will be purely Gleneagles,” added Clarke, who said he had no idea who would be nominated at the meeting, which will be chaired by Thomas Bjorn. “We’ll just have to wait and see,” he added. “It’s not something we talk about before we get in that room. And what is talked about in that room is supposed to be confidential.”
Having played with Clarke in the opening round here, committee member Stenson had Montgomerie for company yesterday but the Scot said the Ryder Cup captaincy had not been mentioned.
“I played terrible and wasn’t on the same fairway to ask him [Stenson],” joked Montgomerie.