Darren Clarke will take a step back from his hectic schedule as European Ryder Cup captain next week with a diary free of official business. Yet while on the face of it there will be some calm before the dramatic storm of the resumption of golfing rivalries with the US at the end of the month in Minnesota, it is doubtful the Irishman will be sleeping any easier.
The 2011 Open champion, charged with maintaining Europe’s dominance in the biennial matches for a fourth successive time when the teams convene at Hazeltine on September 30, is leaving nothing left to fate as he bids to deliver his 12-man team the perfect foundations to go out and repeat the consecutive wins of 2010, 2012, and 2014.
And that will include seemingly every waking hour of even a quiet few days away from European Tour duties next week. Speaking yesterday, after conducting a putting masterclass with Aer Lingus at St Anne’s Golf Club on Dublin’s Bull Island, Clarke admitted the Ryder captaincy was all-consuming.
“It’s on my mind all the time. I don’t get to sleep. It’s just non-stop,” he said. “It’s part of my character, my attention to detail, it’s part of me. I keep waking up, go back asleep but then wake up 10 minutes later and get my phone out and type something into my notes on my phone and bits and pieces.
“ If I don’t give it my all I’ll be disappointed in myself. If I didn’t feel that I did everything I possibly could , I would feel as if I’d let the team down and I do not want to do that. I want to give those guys (on his team) the amount of respect that they should have and I can only do that if I feel as if I’ve done everything I can.”
Having played in five Ryder Cups between 1997 and 2006, winning four of them, and served as a vice-captain for winning skippers Colin Montgomerie (2010) and Jose Maria Olazabal (2012), Clarke is aware of the level of preparation required to send out a successful team for three days of nail-biting matchplay golf against the Americans, led at Hazeltine by losing 2012 captain Davis Love III. He also recognises however well he does prepare he will be judged solely on the end result.
“At the end of the day I can’t control what goes on on the golf course when it comes to Friday. I can control who plays with who, I can’t control how they play.
"You know, from the inside, would you say Davis Love was a bad captain at Medinah, when Europe came back to win in the manner in which they did on the Sunday? Davis was a brilliant captain by all accounts but he got hammered because he lost.
“You also have, what’s a good captain, what’s a bad captain? At the end of the day, what you’re trying to do is to play the best you possibly can for the team. If we have a positive result on Sunday and win the Ryder Cup I will be absolutely ecstatic.
"If it goes the other way will I be gutted and disappointed? Yes, of course I will be. But if I wake up on Monday morning and look myself in the mirror and say, did I do everything I possibly could to help those guys have the chance to win the Ryder Cup, I can’t do any more than that.
“But in terms of being perceived as a good captain or bad captain, that unfortunately goes with the result. You know that when you take the job, if we win I’ll be a great captain, if we lose I’ll be a bad captain. That’s the way it is.
“As a captain I am just making sure all the plans we’ve put in place will be executed properly whenever we get there. There’s a wonderful team behind me, my support team, everybody’s done a lot of hard work on it
.”We have taken the best bits of every other captain and tried to put it into my term as captain; every captain before me has done the same thing. We haven’t overlooked anything and I don’t think I could have done any more to this point.”
Clarke has brought together a wealth of experience to assist him at Hazeltine by naming five vice captains with 24 Ryder Cup appearances between them in Pádraig Harrington, Thomas Bjorn, Paul Lawrie, Ian Poulter and Sam Torrance. And the quintet has become used to their captain’s erratic sleep patterns courtesy of the WhatsApp group Clarke created for them.
“Oh, they’ve had some funny messages at funny times,” Clarke said with a laugh. “We’ve had our own WhatsApp group these past three or four months, going through from the whole picks and all that, as well as speaking to eeach other and seeing each other at tournaments, we’ve also had daily conversations on WhatsApp and all that sort of carry on.
“I welcome everybody’s opinion from all the other guys, all the vice captains.
“That’s why I picked them, I want their honest opinion. Don’t give me any of this, ‘yes, captain, I agree with you’. I don’t want that, I want an opinion and that’s what I’ve got from all of them, which is brilliant.”
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