It’s been a bad week for anyone with who still has faith in the men who administer sport.
Whatever about the European Tour’s reported ‘de facto’ appointment of Darren Clarke as Ryder Cup captain for 2014 (according to the Daily Mail), Pat Hickey’s self-deluded belief that he can make Rory McIlroy famous by offering him the honour of carrying the tricolour in the Olympic Stadium in Rio is only rivalled in its inanity by Lee Westwood’s belief that Clarke’s captaincy credentials are made all the more immaculate by his prowess as a public speaker.
Even though the Mail claims Clarke has been offered the 2014 Ryder Cup captaincy by the European Tour already, Westwood threw his weight behind his close friend and stablemate following the opening day’s play in the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final exhibition tournament in Turkey.
While his ex-stablemate Paul McGinley was still the bookies’ favourite last night to lead Europe at Gleneagles and considered by many to be the best qualified for the job because of his track record as a team captain in the Vivendi Seve Trophy, Westwood believes that Clarke should get the nod, not just because he has a better playing CV, but because he’s “a very good public speaker.”
McGinley doesn’t (or didn’t) stand a chance against Clarke in a golfing beauty contest where the Dungannon native edges him on Major wins (1-0), professional wins (22-9), Ryder Cup appearances (5-3) and Ryder Cup wins (4-3) to name just a few categories. But when it comes to the gift of the gab, not even Clarke’s broth-of-a-boy-hard-drinking-Irishman patter can match McGinley.
Not that it matters any more. It’s a fait accompli anyway if you believe Her Majesty’s Press and one that will prove “popular with club golfers up and down the land, who identify with Clarke’s obvious struggles with his volcanic temperament on the course and his love of a pint off it.”
If that’s the case, so much for the transparency of the selection process, the opinion of the Tournament Players Committee and the general intelligence level of the sporting public, who have surely learned to see beyond the comic cut caricature of Clarke’s public persona.
Clarke, McGinley and captaincy candidates Thomas Bjorn and Miguel Angel Jimenez are also members of that august Committee alongside Colin Montgomerie, Felipe Aguilar, Paul Casey, Gonzalo Fernandez Castaño, Richard Finch, Joakim Haeggman, David Howell, Robert Karlsson, Barry Lane or Henrik Stenson.
Perhaps they’ve all agreed already that there really is just one man for the job given Clarke’s inexorable slide into irrelevance as a player since he captured the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St George’s.
As one Ryder Cup WAG remarked several years ago: “It’s jobs for the boys and they’ve got it all worked out.”
It’s not that Clarke would be poor but is he really a better candidate for the job that McGinley who led two understrength GB&I teams to Seve Trophy victories and played a blinder as a vice-captain in 2010 and this year. It’s certainly debatable and that the European Tour could come to a decision less than two weeks after the Meltdown at Medinah is truly remarkable.
Westwood argued that there were a lot of “good candidates” but would opt for Clarke because “he has been a Ryder Cup stalwart for many years.”
He added: “The one at the K Club will be remembered for him, his great performance under the stress of what he was going through at the time. He is a major champion, a very good public speaker, which has to be taken into account. Tactically he is very astute. I think he has a lot going for him.”
On McGinley, Westwood was less effusive, explaining: “He is good in the team room and makes a great vice captain. He’s done a good job at the Vivendi Trophy. Paul has played three Ryder Cups, Darren has played five, won a major championship and a lot of other tournaments worldwide. You have to have a criteria somewhere and he edges it for me.”
Clarke has been playing the “if it came my way it would be an honour” card so far in what is a one-sided media battle between two ex-Ryder Cup players for a gig that is worth its weight in gold in terms of endorsements for the lucky candidate and his management team.
While McGinley has been endorsed by Padraig Harrington and Peter Hanson and indirectly backed in public by Rory McIlroy, Clarke has been consistently touted as the man by the biggest English newspapers since the summer.
Money talks for McIlroy too as he confirmed with his appearance this week’s megabucks event in Turkey - where he finished triple bogey, double bogey, double bogey to lose 77-70 to Matt Kuchar in the first round robin match in the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final.
McIlroy refused to be drawn in Turkey when asked for his reaction to outrageous comments by the President of the Olympic Council of Ireland, Pat Hickey, that he would be in “pole position” for the honour of carrying the Irish tricolour in the Olympic Stadium at the opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 if he declared his allegiance to Ireland.
Hickey’s deluded theory is that McIlroy, one of the most recognisable sportsment on the planet, should jump at the chance to become famous!
“Can you just imagine what something like this would do for Rory McIlroy?” Mr Hickey told the Daily Telegraph, apparently with a straight face.
“It would suddenly catapult him into the realms of being one of the most instantly recognisable sporting faces on the planet. Because make no mistake about it, that’s what carrying the flag does for people.”
Obviously Mr Hickey has been living on another planet for the past few years.