Paul McGinley will put aside his personal differences on Wednesday to give Darren Clarke the vote which will carry him over the line in the race to become Europe’s Ryder Cup captain.
McGinley is part of the five-man panel who will select the candidate to lead the defence at Hazeltine in 18 months’ time, although it is understood that David Howell, the representative from the players’ committee, and George O’Grady, the European Tour’s chief executive, will step in only if the three immediate past captains cannot reach a decision.
Colin Montgomerie is an obvious Darren Clarke supporter, while José María Olazábal will be torn between the Ulsterman, who is a close friend, and his countryman Miguel Ángel Jiménez. That will make McGinley’s viewpoint vital at the midweek meeting at Wentworth.
McGinley and Clarke go all the way back to their early days on Tour when, as wannabe champions, they shared rooms at events. When success arrived, they became neighbours in Sunningdale, but apparently drifted apart after Clarke moved back to Portrush following the death of his first wife, Heather. But the real split occurred after McGinley perceived Clarke as going back on a promise to allow him free run at the 2014 captaincy.
Clarke put his hat in the ring for Gleneagles and even when he withdrew late in the day he then pledged his support for a Montgomerie return. However, the interjection of Rory McIlroy and a few of Europe’s top pros was seen as critical. McIlroy went public with his backing for McGinley and the Dubliner was duly elected.
This time McIlroy has come out in favour of Clarke, who was something of a mentor to the world No 1 when he was a youngster. In the wake of Gleneagles, McGinley revealed that he would seek out the counsel of the team’s senior players before making his choice. With the likes of Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood all expressing their preference for Clarke, McGinley has only one way to go.
It is understood that McGinley has told leading figures that he will try to grant the players their wish and, with the United States copying Europe in involving those such as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in the appointment of their next captain, it would be a shock and cause a comparable controversy should the panel opt to go against McIlroy and Co.
Certainly, the bookmakers would be surprised if Clarke is not named this week. Ladbrokes report that after installing Clarke as 1-2 favourite straight after Gleneagles they are now refusing to take bets. “The Wentworth vote is now clearly a formality,” a Ladbrokes spokesperson said.
The announcement is expected the same day.