Lee Westwood has unsurprisingly added his voice to those backing Darren Clarke to be Europe’s next Ryder Cup captain.
World No1 Rory McIlroy has already said he feels Clarke would be an ideal captain in the United States in two years’ time, and the former Open champion’s friend and long-time stablemate Westwood agrees.
“It’s about the right time in Darren’s career to take up the captaincy,” Westwood said. “He is very popular in the US and I think he would make a good captain.”
Clarke is favourite to lead the European side at Hazeltine in 2016, although his strained relationship with victorious skipper Paul McGinley may have a bearing on the selection process.
He sent McGinley a letter in 2011 supporting his bid to become captain in 2014, but later changed his mind and also put himself forward. And when Tom Watson was named US captain in December 2012, Clarke suggested 2010 captain Colin Montgomerie should also be considered as “whoever it is standing on that stage opposite Tom Watson needs a huge presence’’.
With the public backing of players such as McIlroy, Luke Donald and Ian Poulter, McGinley subsequently won the day but admitted recently that his conversations with Clarke were now “short and sweet’’ and amounted to little more than passing pleasantries.
Graeme McDowell has urged Clarke and McGinley to put their differences aside and McGinley insisted on Monday that his relationship with Clarke would not unduly influence his role in the new selection process.
Since 1999, the captain was selected by the European Tour’s 15-strong tournament committee, but changes announced in August last year mean the responsibility now falls to the previous three captains (McGinley, Jose Maria Olazabal and Montgomerie), the Tour’s chief executive and a tournament committee representative.
A lot will depend on which captaincy contenders will also be attempting to qualify for the team, with Thomas Bjorn back in the side after a 12-year absence at Gleneagles and vice-captain Padraig Harrington still hoping to rediscover the form which brought him three major titles.
Westwood would also like to be captain “somewhere down the line,” but for now wants to concentrate on playing and becoming Europe’s record points scorer in the event. Two wins alongside Jamie Donaldson in the foursomes took his tally to 23, half a point more than the late Seve Ballesteros and two behind Nick Faldo’s record.
“You like to set records and I set one by being on seven winning teams, so I would like to set the record points tally,” he added.
Speaking about his partnership with Donaldson, he added: “It’s part of the responsibility of being one of the veteran players. But it did not feel like I was playing with a rookie with Jamie. He has a similar game to me and he settled into it nicely.”
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