Sprint finish in a race that wasn't supposed to be a race
2014 Ryder Cup:There comes a time in a man’s life when he should be above all of this. The hoping, the waiting, the thump-a-dump of a heart that feels like it’s loud enough for everyone to hear.
These men are millionaires, they’ve had their careers and then some. Surely now should be the time for good wine, old yarns and no hassles. But no, they want to be the next Ryder Cup captain, the one role in golf capable of turning middle-aged men into nervy kids at a school disco.
The announcement will come tomorrow when either Paul McGinley or Colin Montgomerie will be invited to pull Excalibur from the rock. Or maybe there remains the slimmest of possibilities that Darren Clarke will.
You wouldn’t feel comfortable ruling anything out at this point, not after a race that wasn’t supposed to be a race at all but somehow turned into a bunch finish just as the line approached.
Up until the middle of last week, it was a straight contest between McGinley and Clarke but then, with all the who-me modesty of an old-ham director turning up for one last turn at the Tony awards, Monty got in the mix. Not 48 hours later, Clarke more or less removed himself from said mix, announcing – presumably on the back of inside information – that he felt that “this may not be my time”.
McGinley, after months of making the running, has kept the head down as the day has drawn near but he must be coming into this week wondering to himself how it has come to this.
Because when all came to all, this was supposed to be a pretty straightforward affair. As far back as last April, McGinley looked to have the whole show sown up. His main opposition for the role was always assumed to be Clarke – and Clarke only – so when he revealed that his friend and former next-door neighbour had told him privately that he was stepping aside, it looked like the table had been set for him.
“Clarkey is not going for 2014,” he said all of nine months ago. “He has given his support to me. That helps. Everything helps. It’s pretty odds-on that Darren is going to be captain in 2016. By all accounts, Darren is going to be nailed on for 2016 after winning the Open Championship.
“He sent me a hand written letter after the Seve Trophy last year saying how much he enjoyed me being captain, how much I surprised him by how good I was and that beyond doubt, I would have his full support for 2014.”
For pretty much the only time in two years, McGinley forgot the first rule of being Ryder Cup captain. You do not talk about being Ryder Cup captain, not until they stitch your name into the press release. All the same, McGinley’s sin was a venial one, easily forgiven. After all, Clarke’s apparent removal from the picture looked to have left the way clear for him to take up a job for which he was the natural choice.
No potential Ryder Cup captain has ever laid the amount of groundwork or paid the amount of dues McGinley has in preparation for the job. His playing career might not be as stellar as either Clarke’s or Montgomerie’s but when it comes to captaincy, McGinley has taken all the right steps and made all the right moves. Twice the winning captain of the GBI Seve Trophy team, twice a vice-captain on successful Ryder Cup teams under Montgomerie and Jose Maria Olazabal.
He’s never lost a Ryder Cup as a player or a vice-captain and Europe’s only defeat in the last six matches came in 2008 when he wasn’t involved.