Clarke backs 'sensational' captain Faldo

Darren Clarke believes Nick Faldo will make a “sensational” Ryder Cup captain - whatever opinion opposite number Paul Azinger or anybody else has of him.

Darren Clarke believes Nick Faldo will make a “sensational” Ryder Cup captain - whatever opinion opposite number Paul Azinger or anybody else has of him.

Paul McGinley, who resigned as an assistant captain last September, insists he is “100%” behind Faldo too.

More than five months before the match in Louisville, Azinger has lit a fuse by claiming that players want nothing to do with Faldo and saying that there is “no way” Colin Montgomerie will be given a wild card because of what Faldo thinks of him.

The article in the Mail on Sunday quoted Azinger as saying: “The bottom line is that the players from his generation and mine really don’t want to have anything to do with him. He did what he did as a player, and there are relational consequences.”

The former US PGA champion, runner-up to Faldo in the 1987 Open, also spoke about wanting the opportunity to play with Montgomerie so that he could ask him to “give me some stuff” on Faldo.

“He and Faldo don’t seem to get along, and there’s no way Faldo will award him one of his two wild cards,” he added.

Clarke, a member of the last five Ryder Cup sides and the hero two years ago when he won all his three games just a few weeks after the death of his wife, said of Faldo and Azinger: “They’ve obviously had a few clashes in the past, and you know Zinger’s a very fiery personality – that’s the way he is.

“The two of them don’t see eye to eye – that’s pretty much public knowledge.

“Nick kept himself to himself. He’s always been like that. He was a very focused individual when he played.

“But it won’t affect how people play for him. He’s a six-time major champion - the best player we’ve ever had. Whether people like him or loathe him – and it’s pretty obvious you have people in both camps – you cannot disrespect at any stage what he has done in the game.

“His record speaks for itself – he is a legend in the game of golf.”

Clarke just laughed when Azinger’s comment about Montgomerie was put to him.

“Nick’s been on Tour a very long time – and he will, I am sure, be a sensational captain. He might not go about it like ’Woosie’ (Ian Woosnam) or ’Jesse’ (Mark James), but he’ll be very thorough.”

There was speculation last autumn that McGinley had stood down as an assistant because Faldo had not involved him in the Seve Trophy in Ireland.

The Dubliner said it was because he wanted to concentrate on his game, and his first reaction when the article was shown to him was: “It’s started already.

“There’s no way I’m going to comment on that. Nick Faldo is captain of the European team, and I am 100% behind him.”

Clarke and McGinley are both members of the European Tour players’ committee which recommended Faldo for the captaincy.

Another is Barry Lane, and he said: “I think Azinger is really stirring it up.

“Nick never really endeared himself, because he was absolutely focused on his game and his life.

“But what he achieved was absolutely phenomenal, and I don’t think personality should come into it. Everybody has so much respect for him, and I think he will make a great captain.

“He kept himself to himself – but he was a perfect gentleman to me and he’s been a great ambassador for the sport.

“I think this will go over Nick’s head, and people will back him because of what a great player he has been.

“If Monty plays well and Nick has a chance to pick him he will. Nick is driven, and it won’t be about personality – he will pick the best players for the team.”

Faldo is commentating for American television on The Masters this week. Azinger, who shared a booth with him until this year, is expected to be at Augusta on Wednesday.

It will be interesting to see if their paths cross.

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