A step into the unknown as Darren Clarke answers Europe’s call

Darren Clarke admits his lack of experience as a skipper will leave him heading into the unknown at Hazeltine in 19 months’ time.

A step into the unknown as  Darren Clarke answers  Europe’s  call

Paul McGinley had two successful Seve Trophy captaincies under his belt before leading the troops to an eighth win in 10 matches at Gleneagles last September.

And Clarke could only hold his hands up and hope he is as successful as the last two men to lead Europe without having pulled on the captain’s armband at any level — Bernhard Langer at Oakland Hills in 2004 and Ian Woosnam at The K Club in 2006.

“They both did okay, didn’t they?” Clarke said, recalling those record, nine-point wins.

If the news is confirmed and Clarke’s close pal Davis Love III is handed a second bite at the US captaincy next Tuesday and the chance to avenge the Miracle at Medinah in 2012, the 46-year-old Dungannon man will be facing not just a hostile American crowd desperate for its first success since 2008 but also a friend who has had the experience of leading his country into battle on home soil before.

But, having expressed his gratitude to the five-strong “panel” for selecting him and his pride at being handed the honour, Clarke could only hope his vast experience as a Ryder Cup player, not to mention those vice-captaincies at Celtic Manor in 2010 and Medinah in 2012, will stand him in good stead.

“Is it a big advantage?” he said of previous captaincy experience.

“I don’t know, I couldn’t tell you. I will find out. I will glean as much information as I can and do the best job I can.”

His first task will be to pick the brains of past captains such as Colin Montgomerie, Jose Maria Olazabal and McGinley — “I’ve got big shoes to fill,” Clarke said — though Dubliner McGinley has already made it plain he won’t be returning to the team room as a vice-captain.

“Well, obviously, it would be hugely important for me to rely on previous captains and to try and take their advice,” Clarke said.

“Regarding sitting down with Paul, I haven’t sat down with Paul yet because I didn’t want to appear as if I was affecting anything to do with the outcome [of the vote]. It was a totally impartial thing...

“But, moving forward, then yes, I do plan to sit down with a lot of the captains, especially Paul because he was so successful the last time at Gleneagles.

“With the run that Europe have been on, it’s exceptional. We are going for our fourth straight win. That hasn’t been done before.

“But with the players we have at our disposal, I think it’s definitely an achievable feat.

“It will be difficult going to America, I have no qualms about that. The home crowd always makes the difference.

“Medinah was very special, the way the guys performed on Sunday, doing what they did, coming back from where they did. But yeah, I would expect a very, very stern test from America, it always is.”

Having played in five Ryder Cups, winning four, and won two World Golf Championship on US soil before claiming The Open at Hoylake in 2011, the Ryder Cup captaincy will cap a glorious career for Clarke.

European Tour chief executive George O’Grady — a member of the five-strong selection panel alongside Players Committee representative David Howell and immediate past captains McGinley, Jose Maria Olazabal and Colin Mongtomerie — said the decision was unanimous.

“It was Darren’s time,” O’Grady said, revealing he didn’t have to cast his vote.

The selection panel seriously considered Miguel Angel Jimenez and Thomas Bjorn but as McGinley explained afterwards, the backing of up to nine of the 2014 team, including countrymen Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, proved to be the clincher

“He’s a great choice to be captain,” McIlroy said. “Everyone in America loves him as well. I think he’s got a great rapport over there with the fan base and will be really well received. I couldn’t think of a better guy to play under in 2016.”

McDowell reckons Clarke has the personality to build on the work of his predecessors, explaining: “I think it’s a phenomenal choice. He’s certainly beloved in the US, the fans love him out there and he’s got the kind of character to carry himself well enough with the media but more importantly to execute a good leadership role within the team room.

“If he is anything like Paul McGinley in the team room he will do a phenomenal job.”

Past captains Tony Jacklin, Bernard Gallacher, Sam Torrance, Montgomerie and McGinley all gave Clarke their blessing.

McGinley’s advice was for Clarke to make the role is own.

“It is hard to say what kind of captain he will be, he has never been a captain before though he’s been a vice captain twice,” McGinley said.

“It is a big earning curve for him but I am sure he will enjoy every moment of the next two years and will do a very good job and represent us well.

“He will bring his personality to it and the best advice I can give is just be yourself and do what you believe to be right.”

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