A few weeks ago it appeared that Miguel Ángel Jiménez had all but thrown in the towel and looked more likely to pursue his career goals than press his case for the 2016 Ryder Cup captaincy. But having declared in Abu Dhabi that he now wants the job "with a passion" — a remarkable turnaround for a man who was as non-committal as could be in a season-ending interview with Ten Golf at Christmas — we now have a fascinating popularity contest on our hands.
Several of Europe's 2014 winning side want Clarke to get the job at Hazeltine in 2016 — Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Lee Westwood have backed him publicly wile vice captain Pádraig Harrington also sees Clarke as the ideal man for the job.
But while he's still the 1/4 favourite with the bookies to be named as skipper, Clarke now admits that the five-man selection committee has a choice to make in what looks like a two-horse race.
Paul McGinley and Spaniard Jose Maria Olazabal are two of the immediate past captains alongside winning 2010 skipper Colin Montgomerie, charged with picking the new man with the help of Players Committee nominee David Howell and the Tour's CEO George O'Grady.
As far a player popularity and political expediency is concerned, it's far from clear cut. Clarke has as many admirers as he does detractors while Jiménez's communication difficulties may count against him.
Asked in Dubai by BBC Northern Ireland what he felt about the captaincy situation, Clarke said:
"It's not up to me, it's up to the guys on the committee to decide. At the moment it would look as if it's down to two of us, between Miguel and myself, and I'm sure whoever the committee decide will do a great job. It's up those guys to determine which one they think is going to be best out of the two of us. Those guys have a lot of experience and, having done it all before - there are three previous captains - we'll see what happens."
Two of Europe's heroes from Gleneagles, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson, also believe it's a straight fight between Clarke and Jiménez.
Q. Just on the subject of Miguel, how do you view his Ryder Cup captaincy potential?
HENRIK STENSON: Well, I think most likely we're going to see a race between Darren and Miguel. I mean, that's beauty of being a part of the Tournament Committee that no longer votes for it; I don't have to put any thought into it. I just have to wait like everybody else until the result comes out.
I think we've got a lot of capable candidates for captaincy. We'll just have to wait and see. My guess is as good as yours.
Q. Presumably the committee will take into account the opinion of leading players. How important is it for them to take on board the views of guys such as yourself?
HENRIK STENSON: Yeah, as of now, I haven't been asked in these‑‑ by anyone on that committee. So I'm sure it's made up of the three previous captains, right, and Thomas?
Q. And George and David.
HENRIK STENSON: So they have got enough experience between themselves to come up with good decisions. I'm as curious as you are. I believe they haven't met yet. They haven't managed to get that meeting together, so I don't know when it's scheduled to happen. Yeah, I can give you my thoughts when we see the result.
Q. How comfortable is that fence you're sitting on?
HENRIK STENSON: Very comfortable. (Laughter) good try.
Garcia could be expected to support Jimenez, who won on the Champions Tour on Sunday at the age of 51.
Q. Talking about Spanish winners, Jiménez won on the Champions Tour. Is there a battle between Jiménez and Darren Clarke for The Ryder Cup captaincy in your opinion?
SERGIO GARCIA: I think so. It looks like that. Very impressive to see him do that after he just lost his mom early last week. So for him to be able to go out there and play like he did, it was very impressive.
And then, yeah, I think those are the two big candidates for the captaincy, and I think we are all excited to see how it turns out.
McGinley's lack of empathy for Clarke following their fraught battle for the 2014 job — he perceived that Clarke reneged on an agreement to allow him a free run and then ran against him before pulling out and publicly backed Colin Montgomerie — should not count.
The Dubliner promised to do his best to pick the best man for the job and he has certainly done nothing but talk up the Spaniard's prospects, insisting that his broken English was not a drawback ("His English is perfect, it's just like a thick Kerry accent”)
“As far as Miguel is concerned, he is someone that the spectators love as well as being very popular with all the players," McGinley said last year. "However he is also a person that I respect very much. I have sat beside him for over a decade on the Tournament Players’ Committee and have seen him exhibit an integrity on many occasions that is very admirable.
“Miguel’s appointment also maintains the continuity I was looking for when I named him captain of the European team for the inaugural EurAsia Cup match in March. He did very well in Malaysia that week and all the players in that team enjoyed working with him. It will be the same at Gleneagles."
Let the fun and games begin.