Padraig Harrington insists that Europe must avoid comparisons and appoint Paul McGinley to take on Tom Watson at Gleneagles rather than asking Darren Clarke to play captain fantastic in the 2014 Ryder Cup.
Like Rory McIlroy and the majority of the team that pulled of the Miracle at Medinah last September, Ireland’s triple major winner sees his fellow Dubliner as the ideal candidate to battle major legend Watson and hopes that Clarke waits until 2016 to lead Europe in the US.
Just don’t expect Clarke to go quietly. Quite the opposite.
McIlroy’s Thursday night tweet calling for McGinley to get the captaincy next time was bizarrely re-tweeted by Clarke and led to the Dubliner taking over as the favourite on the betting exchange Betfair and shortening in price with bookies Ladbrokes and Coral.
However, speculation that Clarke will stand aside for McGinley was shot down by the Ulsterman’s manager, Chubby Chandler, who said he had “no idea” why Clarke re-tweeted McIlroy’s message, adding: “Darren is still happy to do the job in 2014.”
Whatever about Clarke’s intentions - his good play in this week’s Australian PGA may lead to renewed interest in making the side as a player - Harrington reckons it would be a mistake to try to win a popularity contest with Watson.
“There simply isn’t anyone of Tom Watson’s status in Europe, we don’t have any eight-time Major champions,” Harrington said. “In golf, if you’re up against a real big hitter, the last thing you do is try to compete with him.
“And the same applies in this situation. You don’t try and compete in Watson’s back garden, you take the battle elsewhere. And in that regard, Paul is the ideal candidate.
“No matter who McGinley comes up against, he’ll be the type to concentrate on doing his own job, making sure he has all the bases covered. Paul’s also is a great fan of Tom Watson and, I understand, they get on well together, which only can help.”
Ruling out Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie or indeed himself, Harrington added: “Monty’s wise enough to be happy with his one stint as a winning captain at Celtic Manor, while I’ll be playing.
“My own opinion is that the captaincy of the European team at the next Ryder Cup is between Paul and Darren. Personally, I’d like Paul to get it this time and Darren next time in the US in 2016.
“It’s a brave decision if Darren steps aside now. If they were allowed appoint captains in a sequence, Paul would be the man for 2014; Darren would be an ideal captain to take the team to the ‘States, then you’d have Thomas Born for 2018 in France.
“Each of the would be great Ryder Cup captains, though they’d be completely different in their approach. Paul’s exceptional flair for organisation and strategy would make him an efficient captain, like a Bernhard Langer.
“Darren would be a motivational figure, out in front and leading everyone, perhaps in the way Ian Woosnam at The K Club.
“There’s no doubt, Darren has a bigger public profile than Paul but Europe don’t need that at the moment. Because there’s nobody on this side of the Atlantic to compete with a man of Tom Watson’s status in the game, we shouldn’t go down that road.”
As for the appointment of Watson, Harrington said it was coming and sees it as a huge compliment to what Europe has achieved in winning seven of the last nine Ryder Cup matches.
“It’s been flagged for a while. It really shows how much it means to them to bring out the big guns like this,” he said. “Tom Watson brings a huge stature to the job – there’s a massive amount of respect for him in the US and on our team.
“I don’t know if it’s possible for an opposing captain to be intimidating but he brings a lot of respect and status with him.
“The way I look at this - the European Tour should take a huge amount of satisfaction out of the fact that we now have a Ryder Cup that means so much to the US side.”