Clarke throws Monty into captaincy debate

Darren Clarke and Colin Montgomerie share a laugh at the 2011 Italian Open. Picture Eoin Clarke/www.golffile.ieThe scramble for the 2014 Ryder Cup captaincy is quickly descending into a tale of intrigue worthy of the Vatican.

Thanks to Darren Clarke, we can add another name to the list of candidates to be considered before there is “fumata blanca” in Abu Dhabi next month - Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie.

Taking exactly the opposite view to Pádraig Harrington, who believes it is impossible to match US captain Tom Watson for stature, Clarke lobbed the 2010 captain’s name into the conversation in London today when asked about the leader’s role at Gleneagles in less than two years’ time.

For Paul McGinley, considered Clarke’s leading rival for the job by the bookmakers, it might has well have been a hand grenade.

Watson’s appointment, Clarke believes, is a game changer.

In a PA story, he said: “I think it could well affect who is appointed. A lot of people, myself included, were surprised when Tom Watson was appointed.

“It’s a big statement and brilliant for the event - there are few more iconic figures in golf, he’s adored in Scotland and it sends out a statement that they are very serious about winning the trophy back.

“Maybe we have to have a look and consider other people as well. Whoever it is standing on that stage opposite Tom Watson needs a huge presence.

“We seriously need the right man for the job. We do have an (unwritten) rule where we don’t ask anybody to do it again, but we might have to look at that.”

Montgomerie has not put his name forward but insisted instead that he would do the job in his home country at Gleneagles, “Only if asked.”

Asked about his availablilty for the 2014 captaincy shortly after Europe’s memorable comeback at Medinah, Montgomerie said: “I think you have got to have favourites like Darren Clarke, Thomas Bjorn and Paul McGinley. They have been vice-captains twice. You have got to look at one of those three possibly for Gleneagles. You will probably find one of those will take over and try and retain it.”

Clarke’s words may not have been necessary to bring Montgomerie into the debate when the Tournament Players Committee sits down to discuss José María Olazábal’s successor in Abu Dhabi in the New Year. If the “stature” issue is considered crucial, it will hole McGinley’s candidacy below the waterline.

According to PA’s report, Clarke’s words….

“… might well reduce the odds on Montgomerie being asked to do the job again in his home country.

Initially earmarked for Gleneagles, the eight-time European number one agreed to take on the position two years ago at Celtic Manor and led Europe to a nail-biting one-point victory.

Clarke does add that if he is asked to take charge it would be an honour to do so, but the Northern Irishman also thinks he could have one more playing appearance in him.

The last of his five caps came at the K Club in 2006 - amazingly he won all his three games just six weeks after his first wife Heather lost her battle with breast cancer.

“If they asked me to do it it would be a difficult decision to take. I’m still only 44 and it’s not that long ago that I won The Open,” he said.

It was in July last year, of course, that Clarke, 111th in the world at the time, triumphed at Sandwich.

He has since dropped back to 145th in the rankings, but a top-10 finish in the Australian PGA Championship has raised his optimism for 2013 and beyond.”

Right on cue, Montgomerie’s odds with Betfair tumbled to 19/2 joint third favourite with 2002 skipper Sam Torrance. Clarke remains the leading fancy at 5/12 with McGinley 13/11.