COLIN Montgomerie is facing a straight fight with Paul McGinley today for the 2014 Ryder Cup captaincy after Darren Clarke officially withdrew from the race for the job at Gleneagles.
But, if the European Tour tournament committee break an unwritten rule by appointing Montgomerie, the winning captain in Wales in 2010, for a second stint, they risk upsetting world No 1 Rory McIlroy.
For the second day running, McIlroy came out strongly in favour of McGinley, using his unveiling by Nike in Abu Dhabi to say he felt the Irishman had better leadership qualities than either Montgomerie or Jose Maria Olazabal, the two captains he’s played under in the Ryder Cup.
“I strongly believe that everyone deserving should get their chance,” declared McIlroy ahead of tonight’s much-anticipated committee meeting in the UAE capital at the St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort Hotel.
“I’ve played under Paul in the Seve Trophy in 2009 and he did an unbelievable job. Out of any of the captains I’ve played under, I’d say he was the best as he brought a lot to the team room.
“I personally don’t feel Monty has anything to gain by this because he could lose at Gleneagles after already being a winning captain. I’m fully behind Paul. I think he should get the job and hopefully he does.”
The two-time major winner said it was McGinley’s attention to “small detail” that made him believe the 46-year-old would make a “really good captain”.
He added: “He doesn’t leave any stone unturned. He gives you confidence in the team room. I had a great experience playing under him and even when he’s been a vice captain in the two Ryder Cups I’ve played in he’s had a lot of great ideas.”
Confirming what he’d first hinted in South Africa last Friday, Clarke, the long-time favourite, has asked for his name not to be considered for the role on this occasion.
The 2011 Open champion met with Thomas Bjorn, the committee chairman, over the past couple of days and told the Dane he’d rather not be nominated for the match in Perthshire so as to allow him to concentrate on his playing career.
The 44-year-old said: “I have thought about it long and hard, and I spent a lot of time talking it over with [wife] Alison and the boys over the Christmas period. And the general consensus seemed to be: ‘What’s the hurry?’ I would dearly love to captain Europe some time in the future, but I also want to take at least one more real crack at making the team as a player.”
As a committee member, Clarke will still play a role in selecting Olazabal’s successor and is confident they will “pick the right man for the job”. It was Clarke who suggested that Europe might want to consider looking at a former captain to try and match up to five-time Open champion Tom Watson following his surprise appointment as America’s skipper at Gleneagles.
That got Montgomerie’s juices flowing again and, though he has not come out and canvassed for the post, he’s certainly made no secret of the fact he’d accept the post if asked. “It seemed to be between Darren and Paul and now my name seems to be mentioned an awful lot, so we will see,” he told The Scotsman. “It is flattering to be associated with doing the job again, even though doing it is an invasion of your privacy and life.
“It would be a dream come true if I could be captain at home in Scotland. It will be a great honour, but we will see what the committee decide.”
He is also a member of that, as is McGinley, meaning it will be left to ten players to choose the new captain due to three people being unable to attend tonight. Contrary to reports, Bjorn has the same voting rights as the rest of the committee members and not a casting vote, so it could end in deadlock.
If that’s the case, it would then fall on the European Tour board to decide who will lead Europe into battle.