It’s no surprise that 2014 Ryder Cup skippers Paul McGinley and Tom Watson have been paired together for the first two rounds of the US PGA. But tournament director Kerry Haigh insists there was no premeditation in adding Darren Clarke to mix.
McGinley and Clarke were once very close friends but their relationship appears to have cooled in recent years and the recent Ryder Cup captaincy battle led to anything but a thaw.
The Dubliner admitted back in February that he and Clarke had not spoken face to face since the ferociously competitive race for the 2104 job at Gleneagles.
Clarke did not go out of his way to congratulate McGinley at the time but simply said: “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.
We hear that McGinley was somewhat surprised that he’s been grouped with Clarke but Haigh, who runs events such as the Ryder Cup and the PGA Championship for the PGA of America, said it was all a co-incidence.
“Pairings are done in groups so it is how the computer spit it out, basically, within the groups,” Haigh said. “So it is a random draw within those certain groups of players.”
Denying Tom Watson had requested to play with McGinley or engineered a potentially embarrassing face to face between the Dubliner and Clarke, Haigh added: “Requests? We don’t do that at a major championship.”