The European Ryder Cup Captain for the 2014 matches at Gleneagles in Scotland will be announced Tuesday in Abu Dhabi. I’ll examine the candidates as we wait (with baited breath) for the European Tour’s decision.
Europe’s (and the world’s) best player Rory McIlroy made his allegiance known with this tweet Sunday:
This is not surprising, and is old news, considering Rory commented on this last fall as well. However, given the timing being so close to the Captain announcement, it is interesting that McIlroy gave his endorsement. The connection between McIlroy and Paul McGinley is obvious as well, McGinley is Irish, Rory is from Northern Ireland. McGinley was a vice-captain under Colin Montgomerie in 2010 and under Jose Maria Olazabel in 2012, the two teams that Rory has been a part of. McGinley has been considered among candidates-in-waiting for several years, and his record in the matches certainly warrants consideration: 3 wins as a player (’02, ’04, ’06), holed the clinching putt in 2002, 2-2-5 overall record as a player in the matches (4.5 points). In all, McGinley has never been on a losing side as either a player or vice-captain.
Next, the 2011 Open Champion, Darren Clarke. His first qualification is the previous sentence. Like McGinley, Clarke has served as a vice-captain for the last two matches. Clarke was a part of 5 teams as a player from 1997-2006 with four wins (’97, ’02, ’04, ’06). Shortly after losing his wife to cancer, Clarke provided an emotional lift for the Europeans in 2006 at the K Club, playing inspired golf that helped the Europeans to a second straight 18.5-9.5 thrashing of the United States. Perhaps Clarke’s greatest attribute is his relationship with the European players. Clarke is like a big brother in some ways with other Northern Irish superstars Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell. Clarke is also well-liked and respected by both media and players from the US and Europe. All that said, this AP story has Clarke taking his name out of the 2014 running this week. All indications were that Clarke would most likely be tabbed for the job in 2016, when the matches return to the US at Hazeltine National in Minnesota.
The third candidate is a more recent emergence, victorious 2010 Captain Colin Montgomerie. Monty’s Ryder Cup record is better than either McGinley or Clarke (8 appearances, 5 winning teams, 23.5 points won, undefeated in singles play). Monty is also respected by many of the players as well, but perhaps not as universally as Clarke. Monty has certainly had his media spats on both sides of the Atlantic. And his relationship with American fans is icy at best (remember, he was nicknamed Mrs. Doubtfire at the 1999 Ryder Cup). But relationship with American fans is irrelevant in 2014 as the matches will be staged in Monty’s home country of Scotland. Certainly his record in the event warrants consideration for a second captaincy, but with other qualified candidates waiting for a first chance, I don’t see Monty get a second shot.
The final candidate is something of a darkhorse, Hall of Famer Sandy Lyle. He is the only member of the World Golf Hall of Fame and has more major championships than McGinley, Clarke and Montgomerie combined (2: ’85 Open Championship, ’87 Masters). Lyle was a part of the historic ’85 (first win since 1957) and ’87 (first win on American soil) European teams. Like Montgomerie, Lyle is Scottish and would certainly help to drive support from the home fans. I believe that, like Larry Nelson for the United States, Lyle’s time has unfortunately passed, and that is a shame.
I see McGinley getting the nod. Not so much because of the Rory McIlroy endorsement, but because he is the “next in line”. Europe has seen their most successful run in the Ryder Cup over the last 20 years (7 wins in 9 matches, no losses on European soil since 1993). Although Tom Watson was recently named the captain of the U.S. team, I don’t believe that Europe’s next captain has to match the star power of Watson. Watson was a change from the established norm of a US captain, because of the lack of success the Americans have seen. Europe has no need to deviate from the formula that has generated such a close attachment with the Ryder Cup…
But we’ll see Tuesday