Darren Clarke’s Ryder Cup captaincy took off at Heathrow Airport yesterday with the newly appointed European skipper insisting as matey as he is with his potential team members, he will not shirk the tough decisions.
Clarke has the unenviable task of trying to win a fourth successive Ryder Cup for Europe when the legendary matches with the US are renewed at Hazeltine National in Minnesota in 18 months.
Not only that he must do so by trying to improve on the excellent job done by predecessor and fellow Irishman Paul McGinley last September at Gleneagles and also hold off a young and hungry American team hellbent on vengeance.
The 2011 Open champion, a former Ryder Cup vice-captain to both Colin Montgomerie and Jose Maria Olazabal, has 553 days to formulate a gameplan to win on American soil but he used his first official media briefing as Europe’s 2016 captain in London Heathrow airport yesterday to outline some early thoughts on his captaincy.
He also dropped a hint he may call on Los Angeles-bound Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard to address his team in the manner Alex Ferguson did at Gleneagles on the eve of the contest, won 16½ to 11½.
“We’ll see,” Clarke said of the possibility of a Gerrard address. “Paul obviously got a lot of help and advice from a lot of different people who have been in that position of managing people and looking after people and I will be the same. ”
McGinley’s attention to detail was hailed as one of the major contributory factors in Europe’s victory in Scotland last time around and Clarke says it is a facet that can motivate players.
“All the guys who were at Gleneagles agreed Paul couldn’t have done a better job and that was reflected in the mood of the players and how they played.
“The attention to detail shows the players that you care and you are thinking hard about the whole thing. You will never be perfect but you can certainly try for that. The bottom line is that I’m there to help the players.”
Clarke is undoubtedly close to Rory McIlroy and several likely team members who are former team-mates from previous Ryder Cups but the Tyrone man said he would have no problem making tough decisions.
Asked whether he would be able to put friendships to one side, he replied: “We’ll find out! I’m close to the players, maybe too close. I’ll be very player friendly. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t shirk my responsibilities of making tough decisions. I will not shirk at all. I will do that when I have to. All I want to do is help the guys any way I can.
“Different captains have different styles. Some have their arms around the players, others are more distant. I’d like to think I’m somewhere in the middle ground.
“I’m still playing and very friendly with possibly members of the team. Yes, there has to be a little bit of separation and let the players speak to the vice-captains.
“But it would be foolish of me to say ‘go speak to them’. I want the players to come and speak to me. I want to be their ear as well, not just the vice-captains.”
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