European Ryder Cup skipper Paul McGinley will have a chance to publicly bury the hatchet with Darren Clarke when he tees it up with former captaincy rival - and opposite number Tom Watson - in the US PGA at Oak Hill next week.
Clarke and McGinley battled behind the scenes for the European job at Gleneagles in 2014 and are not believed to be as close as they once were.
The Dubliner admitted back in Februarythat he and Clarke had not spoken face to face since the ferociously competitive race for the Ryder Cup job, nor has Clarke made any public shows of support beyond saying: “I just hope we can put everything behind us because the important thing is that we all get behind Paul as captain and give him as much support as we can.”
Putting everything behind them presumably includes Clarke’s decision to backtrack on a letter he wrote to McGinley, promising not to stand in his way for the job in 2014 before then changing his mind.
Clarke eventually pulled out of the race when it became apparent that players such as world No 1 Rory McIlroy and England’s Luke Donald wanted McGinley to get the job.
However, Clarke then surprised many when he suggested that a player of major stature was a better choice to take on Watson in Scotland than his old pal, which pointed to support for rival Colin Montgomerie. In short, relations between Clarke and McGinley are certainly strained.
Whether the choice of Clarke as a playing partner for McGinley and Watson came from the Dubliner, from Watson, or from either the PGA of America or the European Tour remains to be seen.
But it is certain that it could be interpreted as Clarke’s first step in being named as man to succeed McGinley as European captain at Hazeltine National in Minnesota in 2016. No including him in the backup team at Gleneagles would certainly be seen as confirmation that Clarke is not seen as a future captaincy candidate by the leading players.
In keeping with tradition, the PGA of America has put the winners of the first three majors of 2013 in the same group. Adam Scott (Masters), Justin Rose (U.S. Open) and Phil Mickelson (Open Championship) will begin their rounds Thursday, at 1845 (Irish time) on No. 1, Friday, at 1335 (Irish time) on No. 10
Defending US PGA champion Rory McIlroy, who won by a record eight strokes last year in Kiawah Island, is joined by Vijay Singh (1998 and 2004 PGA champion) and Martin Kaymer (2010).
Four-time US PGA champion Tiger Woods is grouped with Davis Love III (1997 champion) and Keegan Bradley (2011).
Padraig Harrington, the 2008 champion, is with 2011 winner David Toms and 2009 winner Y.E. Yang at 1315 (10th) and 1825 (1st).
1210/1720 1st-10th - Rob Labritz, John Senden, Shane Lowry
1305/1815 10th-1st - Graeme McDowell, Ernie Els and Bill Haas
1315/1825 10th-1st - David Toms, Pádraig Harrington, YE Yang
1335/1845 10th-1st - Davis Love, Keegan Bradley, Tiger Woods
1735/1225 1st-10th - Tom Watson, Paul McGinley, Darren Clarke
1825/1315 1st-10th - Rory McIroy, Vijay Singh, Martin Kaymer