AS Colin Montgomerie admitted it would be a “dream come true” to get a second crack at the Ryder Cup captaincy on home soil, two of his compatriots yesterday threw their weight behind Paul McGinley for the 2014 post at Gleneagles.
After more than three months of speculation, members of the European Tour’s tournament committee will lock themselves away in the plush St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort Hotel here in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi this evening to discuss a successor to Jose Maria Olazabal. This time last week, it seemed that McGinley, a winning Seve Trophy skipper, and Darren Clarke, the long-time favourite, were going to be the two main contenders, with Montgomerie, the victorious captain in Wales in 2010, looking an outside bet. That situation has now changed dramatically after Clarke, an assistant captain in the last two jousts with the Americans, officially withdrew from the race yesterday, leaving Montgomerie as the main threat to McGinley. The Scotsman understands that Thomas Bjorn, the tournament committee chairman, is keen for a decision to be made tonight then announced straight away, while it seems unlikely that the captain for the 2016 match in America will be picked simultaneously.
“It will be good to get the captaincy decision out of the way on Tuesday night,” admitted Montgomerie, who is on the committee along with Clarke and McGinley. “Now that America have their captain in place, it’s about time we appointed ours so everyone can concentrate on other things. But it is flattering to be associated with doing the job again, even though doing it is an invasion of your privacy and life. It seemed to be between Darren and Paul and now my name seems to be mentioned an awful lot, so we will see. I read what Darren said the other day and I have spoken to him since. Obviously, 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.”
Bjorn, an assistant captain at the last two Ryder Cups, will chair tonight’s meeting and the Dane was locked in conversation with Olazabal at Durban airport on Sunday night as the players who were competing in the Volvo Golf Champions moved on to this week’s HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship.
Montgomerie was in a jovial mood as he mingled with the players and caddies, though on landing in the Middle East yesterday morning the 49-year-old might not have been too happy to see that Rory McIlroy, the world No 1, had nailed his colours to McGinley’s mast. “Ryder Cup captaincy should be a one-time thing,” the two-time major winner wrote on Twitter. “Everybody deserving gets their chance and moves on. Would love to play under Paul McGinley in ’14.”
McGinley has also received support from Scott Jamieson and Richie Ramsay, both of whom pinpointed the Irishman’s man-management skills as the main reason they’d like to see him get the nod. Jamieson got first-hand experience of that when he played on McGinley’s Great Britain & Ireland team that beat Continent of Europe in the Seve Trophy in Paris around 18 months ago. “He was a fantastic captain and I think he’d do a great job,” said the on-form Scot. “He was great with me being a rookie in that environment. He was very helpful and I think he’d make an excellent captain, so he’d probably get my vote.”
Ramsay shared that view, having also received some useful advice from McGinley, though in his case it was on a one-to-one basis rather than in a team environment. “I spoke to Paul when we were playing the BMW event in China last year,” said the Aberdonian. “He’s a bit like me in the sense that he makes the most out of his game. I asked him if I could sit down with him and he was good enough to give me some of his time. He talked me through what he thought had been good about my game when we played together and also what he felt I needed to work on.
“People have talked about Tom Watson’s appointment but you could pick anyone and they simply won’t match up to what he’s done. I see McGinley as a guy who would have massive respect for Tom Watson and he’s certainly the type of guy I’d like on my side – I think he’d be brilliant.”
Ramsay said he’d like to see a double appointment with Clarke being picked for 2016, the precedent having been set when Ian Woosnam and Nick Faldo got the jobs at The K Club and Valhalla in 2006 and 2008 respectively. “I think Darren is more of a name in the States, so he’d be better suited for a match over there,” added the European Masters champion.
Paul Lawrie, a member of the winning team at Medinah last year and determined to make the side for Gleneagles, is hoping that Watson’s appointment doesn’t influence the European selection process. “I think we have got to look after what we do and not worry about what the Americans are doing,” said the former Open champion.
“I read someone saying we needed to match up to Watson but we don’t have a player of his stature. Our best players over the years have probably been (Nick) Faldo and Seve (Ballesteros) and even they don’t match up to Tom Watson in terms of stature. We have to appoint who we think is the best guy for the job. However, if we were all being honest, I don’t think it (winning the Ryder Cup) comes down to captain as much as some people make out. It all comes down to how players perform that week.”