By Tony Jimenez
Excellent communication skills and a wealth of experience were two of the reasons Darren Clarke was named Europe’s 2016 Ryder Cup captain on Wednesday, said selection panel member Colin Montgomerie.
The Northern Irishman was appointed to succeed triumphant 2014 skipper Paul McGinley for the clash at Hazeltine, Minnesota after a five-man panel met at the European Tour’s Wentworth headquarters on the outskirts of London.
Clarke, 46, was one of three contenders for the job, along with Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez and Thomas Bjorn of Denmark.
He was described as “an exceptional candidate” by victorious 2010 skipper Montgomerie.
“It was a unanimous decision to announce Darren as captain,” Montgomerie told Sky Sports television.
“I think he’ll be a very good communicator which is most important. He has the respect of the players, is a British Open champion (2011) and has a very good Ryder Cup record.”
Clarke has tasted defeat just once in seven previous appearances in the biennial team event, five times as a player and twice as a vice-captain, and seems to have the backing of most of the team that won the trophy in Scotland in September.
World number one Rory McIlroy said last month that his compatriot would be a perfect fit for the US where he is a popular figure.
“I am naturally extremely proud to be selected,” Clarke said in a news release. “The Ryder Cup has been a massive part of my life and my career so to have the chance to lead Europe is a huge honour.
“I am lucky to have played and worked under some fantastic captains … and I look forward to the challenge of trying to follow in their footsteps and help Europe to a fourth consecutive victory.”
Clarke is particularly synonymous with the 2006 Ryder Cup in Ireland where, despite fighting a constant battle to control his emotions after his wife Heather had died of cancer just before the event, he won all three of his matches.
He is likely to be going head-to-head with Davis Love III at Hazeltine after the Golf Channel reported on Monday that the 1997 US PGA Championship winner would be named American skipper next week.
It would be the second time Love, 50, has led the team after he oversaw the ‘Miracle of Medinah’ defeat in 2012 when Olazabal’s side stormed back to win from 10-4 down.