Pádraig Harrington could succeed Clarke as Ryder Cup captain

Dubliner a contender alongside Bjorn and Lawrie to lead European team in Paris

Job done for the most part, Darren Clarke will have one further function to fulfil as Europe's 2016 Ryder Cup captain: the task of choosing his successor for the match in Paris in two years time with a number of his lieutenants on this occasion, among them Pádraig Harrington, likely to be in the frame.

"That's part of my role now and hopefully I might get that one right," quipped Clarke, who will form a five-man selection committee with past captains Paul McGinley (2014), Jose Maria Olazabal (2012), European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley and a member of the European Tour tournament committee. The new captain is expected to be named before Christmas.

The template for succession into the role of captaincy has usually seen someone who has served as a vice-captain move into the role. As such, Harrington, Thomas Bjorn and Paul Lawrie look the most likely candidates. However, given that the match is on continental Europe, Bjorn – who has served as chairman of the tournament committee – is likely to be viewed as the favourite with Harrington, perhaps, a stronger candidate for the captaincy at Whistling Straits in 2020.

Candidacy process

Of that candidacy process, Rory McIlroy observed: “It depends on who feels they are ready for it. You have someone like a Lee Westwood, you’ve got Thomas Bjorn, you’ve got Pádraig obviously. He might be trying to go for it, that would be three Irish captains in a row.

“I don’t know how that would feel. But, I mean, anyone of those guys who are there [would work].”

Westwood, though, indicated he would prefer to try to play his way onto the team for Paris, despite his poorest ever Ryder Cup at Hazeltine where he failed to win any points and went zero for three.

“I definitely want to play again. Once you are involved in one RC, you never not want to be in there. I shall be trying hard – who knows what is going to happen. I am sure I will be involved in some capacity.”

And, of Clarke’s captaincy, the first European to captain a losing team since Nick Faldo at Valhalla in 2008, McIlroy insisted: “I don’t think Darren could have done anything else. He has been a fantastic captain.

“Personally for me to play under him, I wanted to win so badly for him and even more so the way, if you could have seen him in the team room all week and the things he was saying. How great of an atmosphere he created. It was fantastic.”

Clarke, for his part, accepted defeat graciously and advised against any changes to the European team qualifying process. No fourth pick. No reducing the number of tournaments a player – such as US-based Paul Casey– would need to play to take up European Tour membership.

“Why would you have a knee-jerk reaction when the whole system has been doing so well? Absolutely leave it as it is, [it has been] successful thus far. We’ve come up against a very strong American team and they’ve played better than we have. There’s no other answer to it all,” said Clarke.

Close friend

His choice of close friend Lee Westwood and his decision to split the Spanish pairing of

Sergio Garcia

and Rafa Cabrera Bella came in for criticism but Clarke stuck to his guns in defeat. He added: “Looking back on it with hindsight – hindsight is a wonderful thing – but would I have changed any of the decisions I made? No, I wouldn’t. Nor would the vice-captains.

“We talked everything through and that was one of my things, rightly or wrongly. My whole concept for what we were doing was one unit, one team and that one unit, one team included the vice-captains, the players, the caddies, the backroom staff.”

The US Ryder Cup committee – which included Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods in a task force that selected Love for the job at Hazeltine – will also move on to the task of selecting a captain for Paris. Steve Stricker's selection as captain for the US team in next year's Presidents Cup rules him out of the equation, but Jim Furyk, a vice-captain to Love, is viewed as the favourite to get the nomination.

Both Mickelson and Woods are likely captains at some point in the future, but not as soon as Paris. Mickelson, for one, will be seeking to play in a record 12th Ryder Cup. Woods, who was a vice-captain to Love and who intends to resume tournament play at the Safeway tournament in California next week, said he “would love to do it, be honoured to do it in the future if asked . . . . but, from the player standpoint of it, I like playing.”

Not yet ready or the captaincy, so.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times

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