Ryder Cup captain chatter humbles Darren Clarke ahead of Dubai Open

After some lofty praise from Tiger Woods, the Northern Irishman wants to improve on a poor Thailand outing at the Dubai Open, writes Gary Meenagahan.

Darren Clarke will tee off at Thursday’s Dubai Open. Warren Little / AFP
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DUBAI // Even if Tiger Woods’s championing of Darren Clarke to be named Europe’s 2016 Ryder Cup captain is successful, the jocular, joking Northern Irishman has made it clear his 14-time major winning friend can forget about being offered a vice-captaincy role.

Californian Woods this week said having old chum Clarke as the rival European Team captain would be “a blast”, but Clarke, grinning ahead of Thursday’s Dubai Open at the Els Club, responded in typically humorous fashion.

“You know, when the best player in the world for a long time says it would be a blast, that’s high praise,” Clarke, 46, said. “It might cause a stir if I asked him to be one of the vice captains though, so I’d better not.”

While Woods representing Europe is as unlikely as him breaking into song on the tee, Clarke is as close to a sure thing as possible when it comes to selecting who will succeed Paul McGinley, the 2014 European captain. Only Miguel Angel Jimenez offers any sort of realistic alternative.

A five-strong panel consisting of the three previous captains, the European Tour chief executive and a tournament committee representative will meet to select the new captain.

Clarke, 46, is well-liked among the leading players and popular in the United States since beating Woods at the 2000 WGC-Andersen Consulting Match Play Championship. He appears the top candidate to lead Europe at Hazeltine.

“Obviously it’s something I would love to do, but it’s not something you petition for; it’s not something you ask for,” said the 2011 British Open winner.

“My name has been put forward and I’m in the running for it. I would love to do it, but it’s up to the committee to decide. It’s a huge honour, but you’re asked to do it. It’s one of those sort of things. So until such times if I am lucky enough to be asked, then I’m just going to keep on playing and see what happens.”

Clarke has endured a strained relationship with McGinley ever since withdrawing his support for the Irishman’s bid to become captain for 2014. The two now rarely exchange anything more than pleasantries, but McGinley – one of the five panel members – has insisted he will not let the relationship cloud his judgement. Likewise, Clarke is smoothing the road.

“Whoever the European captain is when going to Hazeltine, they have big footsteps to follow after what Paul McGinley achieved and how good a captain he was,” Clarke said. “Whoever the European Tour decide, I’m sure will be a great captain.”

Clarke goes into the Dubai Open after a poor effort in Thailand last week, where he finished tied 50th. An invitee of Golf in Dubai, he believes he can turn around his fortunes.

“I love the game and I hate the game,” he said. “Of late, I’ve hated the game a bit more than I love the game, but that’s the game of golf. It’s not always pitching up in beautiful venues such as here and going out and having a good time on the golf course.

“You play well and it’s brilliant; if you struggle a little bit, it’s not so much fun, but you have to keep battling on for the good times.”


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