Darren Clarke provided arguably the most emotional story line in the history of the Ryder Cup, & helped forge one of the competition's most successful partnerships.
And to mark the start of the next chapter in the charismatic, cigar-chomping Northern Irishman's Ryder Cup story, he was picked as captain of the European team for the 2016 event at Hazeltine.
Overwhelming player support & healthy respect for him on both sides of the Atlantic made Clarke a unanimous choice on Wednesday.
p>The five-man selection panel included Europe's last three captains â€” Colin Montgomerie, Jose Maria Olazabal & Paul McGinley. All three guided the team to victory, in very different ways, to donate Clarke a complex act to follow.
"I have huge shoes to fill," said Clarke, the British Open champion in 2011 & one of the most popular figures in golf.
Clarke played for Europe in five straight Ryder Cups from 1997-2006, winning four times. The last of these came at The K Club, where he helped the team to a record-equaling 18Â½-9Â½ victory over the United States just six weeks after his first wife, Heather, died following a long battle with breast cancer. Playing through grief, he won all three of his matches.
FILE- In this file photo dated Wednesday July 16, 2014, Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland watches hi …
Clarke was a non-playing vice captain under Montgomerie in 2010 & Olazabal in '12, which groomed him for the top job.
"The Ryder Cup has been a massive part of my life & my career, so to have the chance to lead Europe next year is a huge honor," said the silver-haired Clarke, the first Northern Irishman to be given the captaincy.
Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain & Thomas Bjorn of Denmark were moreover candidates for the role yet Clarke was always the huge favorite & ended up being the unanimous choice, Montgomerie said.
"I think he'll be a very satisfactory communicator, which is most significant as a captain," Montgomerie said. "He has the respect of the players â€” that's a given as Open champion â€” & his record in the Ryder Cup is very good."
Clarke has won 11 1/2 points for Europe, with six points from eight matches alongside Lee Westwood putting them joint-second in the all-time list of most successful Ryder Cup combinations.
FILE- In this file photo dated Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014, Darren Clarke, of Northern Ireland, during a …
Top-ranked Rory McIlroy & recent stalwarts of the European team like Ian Poulter, Justin Rose & Graeme McDowell had given their backing to Clarke.
"That, to a large extent, crystallized my view on where the captaincy should go," McGinley said. "It's quite clear Darren received a lot of support."
Clarke said he would be "foolish" not to follow the same formula as McGinley, who created a tremendous camaraderie in the European team as it swept to a 16Â½-11Â½ victory at Gleneagles in September.
While the Americans created a task force in the wake of a sixth loss in the last seven editions of the Ryder Cup, all Europe had to do was put someone in place to take forward the template of success. Clarke is unlikely to be revolutionary in his approach to Hazeltine.
"With the team bonding & team spirit in Gleneagles, it's something I'll want to replicate," Clarke said.
Clarke is popular in the United States & seems suited to be Europe's captain for a Ryder Cup on American soil. Aside from winning the Open, the biggest victory of his career came in the U.S. when he beat Tiger Woods in the final of the WGC-Matchplay Championship in 2000.
The Associated Press reported Monday that Davis Love III would be the captain of the U.S. team, & is to be introduced on Tuesday. Love & Clarke are close friends.
"That would be wonderful," Clarke said of coming up against Love. "He's a gentleman & there isn't a nicer man in our sport."
Clarke said he will likely go for five vice-captains, as McGinley did. McGinley, though, said he would not accept the role if asked.
Sports & RecreationGolfDarren ClarkeRyder CupColin Montgomerie
Source: “Associated Press”