Darren Clake and Thomas Bjorn might have Ryder Cup captaincy ambitions but current skipper Paul McGinley has gone for two men he thoroughly respects in naming old hands José María Olazábal and Sam Torrance as captains for October’s Seve Trophy presented by Golf+.
The former Ryder Cup skippers will lead the respective Continental Europe and Great Britain and Ireland teams in the newly-named contest – formerly the Vivendi Seve Trophy – which will be played at St-Nom-La Bretèche Golf Club in France from October 3-6.
Olazábal and Torrance will bring a wealth of experience to the captaincy positions, not least for the fact they have both enjoyed the special thrill of being a winning Ryder Cup captain; Torrance leading Europe to a memorable 15 ½ - 12 ½ triumph at The Belfry in 2002, while Olazábal was the architect of the sensational ‘Miracle at Medinah’ last September where Europe recovered from a 10-6 deficit going into the final day singles to win 14 ½ - 13 ½.
“I am delighted to name José María and Sam as captains,” said McGinley, who will have an overseeing role during the week at St-Nom-La Bretèche. “They are two men I have the utmost respect for and who I’ve benefitted from over the years. I know they will do a fine job.
“I have shared many special moments with both of them but obviously, having Sam as captain for my Ryder Cup debut in 2002 was particularly memorable, as was being one of José María’s vice-captains for that extraordinary week at Medinah last year.
“I have said many times that this is a tournament close to my heart, both as a player and as a captain, and I am delighted that all the parties involved have worked so hard behind the scenes to ensure this year’s event will go ahead. From a playing perspective in particular, it gives the players vital insight into the pressures associated with being part of a team and therefore having other guys depending on you.
“It is totally different to the normal pressures of week in-week out tournament golf and, as a result, the younger players especially benefit from having experienced captains to steer them through. Therefore, I can say for certain, that the 20 guys who eventually make this year’s teams will learn a lot from José María and Sam, as I have done.”
Olazábal, who will undertake his second stint as captain in the contest, having been at the helm at The Wynyard Club in 2005 when his Continental European side went down to Colin Montgomerie’s GB&I team, said: “Everyone knows how much I love team golf such as this and therefore it was a big honour when I got the call.
“I have a great relationship with Paul as I have with everyone involved at Medinah. This will be a great way to say thanks to everyone there and pay them back,” added the Spaniard who, aside from his Ryder Cup captaincy triumph, was also part of three winning European Ryder Cup teams – 1987, 1997 and 2006 – in addition to his 23 European Tour titles.
“Everyone knew my relationship with Seve, through both The Ryder Cup and this contest, and therefore to be part again of team golf again will be great. It’s always good to see players in a match play format and it is a great experience for them. It benefitted my Ryder Cup team and we will have a group of players in France with the potential to play in the next Ryder Cup and beyond.
“I think I will have a very strong team. We have a lot of players who are playing well, such as Miguel Angel Jiménez and Thomas Björn, and some of the younger guys too. So I am very much looking forward to the challenge.”
The Seve Trophy captaincy is seen as a stepping stone to the Ryder Cup job. But whatever about Bjorn’s Ryder Cup captaincy ambitions, the Dane could well make McGinley’s side to face the US at Gleneagles next year.
Bjorn lost as Seve Trophy captain to McGinley in 2009 and his chances of a repeat were hampered by the fact that he looks certain to qualify for October’s event. [See qualifying tables]
Clarke, who played well in The Open only to crash to a fourth round 80 and last place in the US PGA, turned 45 on Wednesday and would be an outside chance of qualifying to play for Europe in Scotland next year.
He was a contender for the job at Gleneagles but withdrew and then urged the committee to look at other candidates other than McGinley - most likely Colin Montgomerie.
Torrance, who will captain a team in The Seve Trophy presented by Golf+ for the first time, said: “It’s a great honour. It’s been 11 years since I took charge of The Ryder Cup team and so you can imagine I’m really looking forward to this – it’s tremendous.
“I’ve been keeping an eye on what has been going on, and so it will be a real privilege to be involved at the helm once again,” added the Scot who, aside from his Ryder Cup captaincy success at The Belfry in 2002, was also part of three winning European Ryder Cup teams – 1985, 1987 and 1995 – and is the man who holds the record for the most European Tour appearances in history with 706.
“It will also be special to go up against Ollie as I’ve known him all my golfing life. But I also know it will be a tough challenge as we all saw the help he got from Seve at Medinah! Seriously though, it’s wonderful to be part of Seve’s heritage and legacy through an event I know he was a huge fan of.
“As for the match itself, there is a wealth of talent out there so I’m really looking forward to working with some of the British and Irish boys we currently have on Tour. We’ve won six on the trot, so you know I will be going all out to try and make that seven.”
The Seve Trophy presented by Golf+, which was first played at Sunningdale Golf Club in England in 2000, was instigated by the late Seve Ballesteros as a team competition to be contested in non-Ryder Cup years.
Qualification for both teams began at the Nelson Mandela Championship presented by ISPS Handa in December 2012, and will conclude after the 70° Open d’Italia on September 22. Each team will then be chosen from the leading five eligible players from the Official World Gold Ranking on Monday September 23, and the leading five eligible players from The Race to Dubai.
The event format will be similar to previous editions, the only slight alteration coming on Saturday which will now see two sessions of four foursomes contested instead of four morning greensomes followed by four afternoon foursomes. The rest of the format remains the same with a series of five fourball matches on each of the first two days and ten singles on the final day. As with The Ryder Cup, a team requires 14 ½ points for victory.
Continental Europe won the first edition of the contest 13 years ago, while Great Britain and Ireland have won the last six matches in succession.