Clarke drops captaincy hint
Darren Clarke, many people's favourite to lead Europe at the next Ryder Cup, said today: "As much as I would dearly love to be captain, this may not be my time".
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The 2011 Open champion is not officially pulling out of the race yet, but it will be no surprise now if next Tuesday's tournament committee meeting in Abu Dhabi comes down to a choice between Paul McGinley and Colin Montgomerie.
Clarke himself raised the possibility last month of Montgomerie being recalled to face golfing great Tom Watson, America's surprise choice to be captain at Gleneagles next year, three years after he was in charge for the victory in Wales.
But committee chairman Thomas Bjorn said on Wednesday: "I don't have a strong view against appointing somebody twice, but there are a lot of other people I think could do a very good job."
McGinley would appear to fit into that category. He has twice been a winning Britain and Ireland captain at the Seve Trophy and in five Ryder Cups - three as a player and the last two as an assistant captain - Europe have always come out on top.
Moreover, world number one Rory McIlroy is among those who has come out and said he would like the 46-year-old Dubliner to be captain at Gleneagles next year and then Clarke in America in 2016.
It was less than two months ago that one newspaper reported that Clarke had "won the race", but he quickly denied he had been offered the post.
Since then a vast improvement in his form has led him to say he believes he could yet return to the side in Scotland. He will be 46 by then.
There is also the fact that winning The Open 18 months ago has opened doors to him all over the world again, particularly in America - and there is a history of Ryder Cup captains suffering a downturn in their playing fortunes.
Clarke, in South Africa at the Volvo Golf Champions, said after his second round 68: "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.
"As much as I would dearly love to be captain this may not be my time.
"I won one of the biggest prizes in golf by winning The Open and I am exempt for another three years (in the States).
"If I was given the opportunity to do the captaincy I'd effectively be throwing two of those years away.
"I'm still wrestling with it. It's a tough one for me, but to be honest with you I want to play golf."
Clarke said it was only right and proper he spoke to his fellow committee members - McGinley and Montgomerie included - before announcing any decision.
There has been speculation there could be a double captaincy decision in the Middle East, with Clarke the clear front-runner for Hazeltine in three years' time.
Asked if taking his hat out of the ring could help him as regards 2016 he replied: "That's not up to me. It's down to the committee and we are only talking about this captaincy.
"I think it will be purely Gleneagles and that will be it."
In 2005 Ian Woosnam was named for the following year's match and Nick Faldo was appointed for the 2008 contest in Valhalla.
The first of those was Clarke's last appearance against the Americans as a player - it was on Irish soil at The K Club near Dublin and just six weeks after his first wife Heather died of breast cancer - he incredibly won all his three games amid emotional scenes.