Captains
Darren Clarke (Getty Images)
Captains

Europe

Clarke relishing role as Ryder Cup underdogs

European Ryder Cup Captain Darren Clarke believes that although his side may head into this year’s clash as underdogs, pre-tournament discussion of favourites will count for little once play begins.

Davis Love III, captaining the Americans for the second time after the 2012 staging at Medinah Country Club, will have four captain’s picks to supplement a team that currently features five Major winners including this year’s US Open Champion, Dustin Johnson.

Clarke readily concedes that the Americans might have the upper hand, but believes the unpredictable nature of the match play format is a great leveller.

“The Americans have to be the favourites, they’ve had a task force and Davis has gone to great lengths to try and find a winning formula,” said the Northern Irishman, who is aiming to guide Europe to a fourth successive victory.

“I wouldn’t expect anything less from Davis. You’d have to say America would be favourites, but when you get there it’s 12 guys against 12 guys in match play, and anything can happen.”

With five rookies currently in Europe’s automatic qualifying spots, Clarke may call upon nine-time Ryder Cup player Lee Westwood in a bid to continue the Continent’s recent success against the American side.

Westwood, who has been on seven winning European teams, is currently 27.74 points behind Matt Fitzpatrick in the ninth and final automatic qualifying spot in the World Points List.

However, Clarke admitted that his friendship with Westwood will not influence the decision to select the Englishman should he not qualify automatically.

“Friendship has no place when it comes to wild cards,” said the 2011 Open Champion.

“Davis is going to have to make those tough calls as well. But the fact he [Westwood] is almost in the team pleases me greatly because he’s a European Ryder Cup stalwart.

“He’s very, very experienced. I know what Lee Westwood brings to the table and I know what he brings to the back room,” he added.

American Captain Love does not currently have any rookies in his provisional side, but acknowledged that having a significant number of debutants qualifying automatically could be a positive for Clarke.

“If I was Darren right now, I’d be excited that I have a bunch of young guys who are playing well and I can use my picks on my Lee Westwoods and guys like that who are stable and have done it before,” said Love.

“If I have a bunch of veterans, I need to pick some youthful enthusiasm. If I had a bunch of rookies and didn’t have any Phil Mickelsons or Jim Furyks, I would have to pick somebody for stability and leadership.

“It’s just plugging holes,” he added. “If we don’t have a quarterback on our team, I’d better draft a quarterback. If I draft another running back, I’m in trouble.”