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Will Clarke really bow out of Ryder Cup race?

Darren Clarke signs copies of his autobiography in Eason’s in December. Picture Fran Caffrey/www.golffile.ieIs Darren Clarke really thinking of bowing out of the race for the 2014 Ryder Cup captaincy?

Reports this week suggest that the Ulsterman may be thinking of trying to play his way onto the team given that he showed signs of a return to form in Australia last month when he secured his first top finish since his 2011 Open win.

“I played my best golf for about 18 months towards the end of last year,” Clarke was quoted as saying in The Sun. “If they asked me to do it in Gleneagles it would be a difficult decision.”

An opening 75 in the Volvo Golf Champions was not quite the start to 2013 that Clarke was hoping for but reading between the lines, one could draw several conclusions from his “difficult decision” comments:

1 - I really think I could make the team again. My game has improved considerably.

2 - I don’t think I’ll not have enough support in the Tournament Players Committee to a win a tight vote.

3 - I know I’ll get it in 2016 if I throw my hat into the ring next time.

4 - I’d love the job but let’s play it down as much as possible in case it doesn’t work out.

The emergence of 2010 skipper Colin Montgomerie as a potential captain, first mentioned indirectly by Clarke shortly before Christmas, has added some extra spice to next Tuesday’s committe meeting.

No-one is ruling out another blast from the past being mentioned as skipper and committee member Henrik Stenson - the man who called for Montgomerie to step into the breach for 2010 at the 2009 meeting - did not sound overly enthusisatic about Paul McGinley’s chances.

Speaking to Bernie McGuire in Durban, Stenson is reported to have said:

“Whether Gleneagles is Paul’s only chance, I am not too sure,” said Stenson

“I don’t think Paul should feel extremely bad if he was not appointed.

“But on Paul’s side he has done all that prep work as a vice captain and at the Seve Trophy but at the end of the day if it’s your turn, it’s your turn and sometimes you have to accept the committee’s decision.

“There are a lot of other great European players who have not been appointed European Ryder Cup captain.”

Just two bookmakers appear to be offering odds on who will be appointed, Coral and the betting exchange Betfair, amid fears of a repeat of the 2009 scenario when Montgomerie’s odds plummetted following a leak.

Coral make Clarke 8/13 favourite with McGinley 7/4, Montgomerie 8/1 and Bjorn 10/1 while Betfair makes McGinley the strong 6/19 favourite ahead of Clarke and Montgomerie, who are both 47/16.