Colin Montgomerie will announce his Ryder Cup vice-captains today, but if rumours are true that he is about to name Darren Clarke as his third deputy he has sent his first drive into the bunker.
Don’t get me wrong, Clarke would make a fine vice-captain. The Northern Irishman is an experienced, charismatic and personable man, who has the respect of is peers much like Monty’s other two vice-skippers, Paul McGinley and Thomas Bjorn. But he’s still a good player.
After a dip in form and an understandable spell in the doldrums that followed the death of his wife, the 41-year-old is coming back to the boil this year, finishing sixth in the Portuguese Open, second in the Scottish Open and a respectable 44th at the windswept British Open at St Andrews at the weekend.
More importantly, the Dazzler is a Ryder Cup legend. Unlike Tiger Woods this is a man that thrives in team competition, as he has proved as a veteran of five Ryder Cup contests, in which he has been on the winning side four times.
Now that the European captain has three wildcard picks, how can you possibly ignore him? His partnership with Lee Westwood is impregnable and the way he repaid Ian Woosnam for picking him at the K-Club with three points from as many matches – just weeks after becoming a widower, says it all about him. It’s no coincidence that when Europe lost last time around Clarke was completely overlooked by Nick Faldo.
But instead of throwing him into the spotlight in which he most dazzles, Clarke is going to be driving around on a golf-cart puffing on his cigars and looking on helplessly from the sidelines as Padraig Harrington – whom Monty has already admitted will be one of his picks, continues his slump in form.
And what does a vice captain do anyway? I know he is supposed to be the guy the players turn to for support and encouragement, but Monty’s already picked two of them as it is? As far as I can tell all they mostly do is drive around on buggies, get the beers in and try to make Mrs Doubtfire look as though she’s got friends.
Europe remain firm favourites to win at Celtic Manor but that might be in spite of rather than because of their skipper.