DARREN Clarke believes Tom Watson’s appointment as American Ryder Cup captain has come as a “bolt from the blue” and really given Europe food for thought before they name their man.
It was widely seen as a straight choice between Clarke and Paul McGinley when the tournament committee meets in Abu Dhabi next month, but last year’s Open champion is not so sure – and that may bring 2010 captain Colin Montgomerie back into the equation.
Clarke, in London yesterday to receive the PGA Recognition Award for his services to golf, said: “I think it could well affect who is appointed. A lot of people, myself included, were surprised when Tom Watson was appointed. It’s a big statement and brilliant for the event – there are few more iconic figures in golf, he’s adored in Scotland (the 2014 match is at Gleneagles) and it sends out a statement that they are very serious about winning the trophy back.
“Maybe we have to have a look and consider other people as well. Whoever it is standing on that stage opposite Tom Watson needs a huge presence. We seriously need the right man for the job. We do have an [unwritten] rule where we don’t ask anybody to do it again, but we might have to look at that.”
Those words might wellreduce the odds on Montgomerie being asked to do the job again in his home country. Initially earmarked for Gleneagles, the eight-time European No 1 agreed to take on the position two years ago at Celtic Manor and led Europe to a nail-biting one-point victory.
Clarke does add that if he is asked to take charge it would be an honour to do so, but the Northern Irishman also thinks he could have one more playing appearance in him. The last of his five caps came at the K Club in 2006 – amazingly he won all his three games just six weeks after his first wife Heather lost her battle with breast cancer. “If they asked me to do it it would be a difficult decision to take. I’m still only 44 and it’s not that long ago that I won The Open,” he said.
It was in July last year that Clarke, 111th in the world at the time, triumphed at Sandwich. He has since dropped back to 145th in the rankings, but a top-ten finish in the Australian PGA Championship has raised his optimism for 2013 and beyond.
Meanwhile, Europe’s Ryder Cup hero this year Martin Kaymer has a nightmare in which the five-foot putt he sank to beat Steve Stricker slides agonisingly past the hole and his career spirals into decline.
“Now I honestly feel like my whole career might have been on the line,” said the former world No 1. “I sometimes think about what would have happened if I had missed it. Would I have had the mental strength to recover from thinking I had let down a whole continent?
“I had a similar putt to win my first major, the USPGA in 2010, but the feeling was completely different. If I had missed that one it would have been my own fault and I would have moved on to the next major. But letting down so many people? That doesn’t bear thinking about.”