Boasting an abundance of Ryder Cup experience, Europe’s quintet of vice captains will again have a crucial role to play when the 41st edition of golf’s greatest team event unfolds at Hazeltine National later this month.
Thomas Bjørn, Padraig Harrington, Paul Lawrie, Ian Poulter and Sam Torrance have made 24 Ryder Cup appearances between them, and so are supremely well equipped to serve Europe’s cause as Captain Darren Clarke plots a fourth successive victory for the boys in blue and yellow.
The concept of five vice captains was introduced by Paul McGinley two years ago, with four assistants monitoring one match each out on the course, leaving the fifth to dispense advice and provide assurance to the quartet of players omitted for either the foursomes or fourballs.
Whilst very much his own man, working on the basis that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, Clarke has wisely opted to retain a formula which yielded so much success at Gleneagles.
Harrington was one of the men who so ably assisted McGinley in 2014, and the Irishman began his preparations for the Hazeltine showpiece the moment he received the call from his compatriot Clarke.
He revealed: “At Gleneagles, I took notes of the areas that I personally wouldn’t have thought of that worked so well that week. I have those notes stored away, I can’t tell you exactly what’s in them but once I got the chance to be a vice captain again, I went through those notes to make sure I’m well versed in what worked and what didn’t work.”
If Harrington is more the quiet, studious type, it is Poulter’s passion which may prove Clarke’s trump card in Minnesota.
Nicknamed ‘The Postman’ for his uncanny ability to deliver when Europe needs it most, Poulter’s presence in the team room at Hazeltine National is a huge bonus for Clarke and Co.
The senior role he played at the EURASIA CUP at the start of the year underlined the esteem in which he is held by his peers, and the rallying cry which has become the Englishman’s calling card could have a galvanising effect on the six rookies in Europe’s ranks.
Whilst not cut from the same eyes bulging, fist-pumping cloth as Poulter there is undoubtedly also fire in Bjørn’s belly; and given his Ryder Cup record of ‘played three won three’ and through his role as the chairman of the European Tour’s Tournament Committee, the great Dane also commands the absolute respect of his fellow players.
The same goes for the Scottish duo of Lawrie and Torrance, and whilst the former will be making his debut as a non-playing assistant, his status as a Major Champion and winner of seven European Tour titles makes him ideally suited to the role.
Having masterminded Europe’s victory over their American counterparts at The Belfry in 2002 – 17 years after holing the winning putt at the same venue – Torrance has seen and done it all as a player, captain and vice captain, and so was the logical choice to complete Clarke’s set of trusty assistants.