He joins McGinley and Bjorn as aides to Montgomerie as he tries to reclaim the golfing prize for Europe
Clarke thrilled to assist at Ryder Cup
He joins McGinley and Bjorn as aides to Montgomerie as he tries to reclaim the golfing prize for Europe Paul McGinley and Thomas Bjorn always looked top of the list for the Ryder Cup, but Darren Clarke was a surprise. Clarke today expressed his "honour" and "delight" at joining the pair as assistants to Colin Montgomerie, who will captain the Europe side in the cup in October at Celtic Manor.
After being opposing captains last September at the Vivendi Trophy match - Continental Europe versus Britain and Ireland - McGinley and Bjorn were obvious choices. But Clarke was unexpected. Runner-up in the Scottish Open two weeks ago, he is 21st in the points race. That means he could still make the team - and he confirmed that if that happens he will play and Montgomerie will need someone else. "Monty would want me to play - there's no question of that," he said.
Montgomerie originally expressed his wish that Jose Maria Olazabal might join him and repeat the role he had under Sir Nick Faldo two years ago in defeat. Olazabal was lukewarm to the idea in any case, but because of rheumatic pains he did not make his first appearance on the European Tour this year until the French Open three weeks ago. And because of that Montgomerie decided he wanted three people who were playing on the Tour week-in and week-out.
"The Ryder Cup is about passion, commitment and will to win - and all three men I have named today possess those qualities in abundance," Montgomerie said. "They are vastly experienced players who have the respect and admiration of everyone in golf. "They are all committed to regaining the Ryder Cup, which is important for us and the European Tour." Clarke was the hero of the 2006 victory, made more poignant by the fact he was playing only a month after his wife died of breast cancer.
Montgomerie first approached Clarke two weeks ago, but it was at The British Open that he agreed to come on board. Montgomerie and Clarke were teammates in five matches, winning four of them. Indeed Clarke's first game at Valderrama in 1997 was with the Scot as his four-ball partner and they beat Fred Couples and Davis Love III on the last. It was thought Montgomerie might go for a Welshman such as Phillip Price because of where the match is, but instead he has increased the Irish presence.
Clarke's fellow Ulstermen Rory McIlroy and the US Open champion Graeme McDowell are certain starters in the match and McGinley's fellow Dubliner Padraig Harrington is one of the favourites for a wild card as things stand, although he still has time to qualify automatically. McGinley and Bjorn are the men with the Midas touch when it comes to the Ryder Cup. Both have been involved in three matches and Europe have never lost with them.
McGinley, 43, sank the winning putt on his debut eight years ago and then was part of the successful 2004 and 2006 teams. Bjorn won his first cap in the 1997 victory at Valderrama, coming back from four down to halve his singles with Justin Leonard. Bjorn missed the defeat in Boston two years later, but played his part alongside McGinley at The Belfry in 2002; in 2004 he was one of Bernhard Langer's assistants as Europe won by a record nine points in Detroit.
The 39-year-old became embroiled in a huge row with Ian Woosnam, the 2006 captain, however, after being overlooked for a wild card in favour of Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood. "He has been the most pathetic captain I have ever seen," Bjorn said. "He came into the bar at the hotel on Sunday and gave me 20 seconds about Lee having won twice at The K Club." Bjorn was fined for his outburst and apologised. Soon afterwards he was made chairman of the European Tour's players committee, the body that chose Montgomerie. Even though Montgomerie has tripled the number of assistants Faldo felt were needed, the American captain, Corey Pavin, has gone for four. Pavin's predecessor Paul Azinger decided on three and in a novel move put Dave Stockton, Ray Floyd (both former captains) and Olin Browne in charge of four players each so that they formed bonds. * PA
World Points List Pos Player Points 1 L Westwood 422.01 2 R McIlroy 271.2 3 G McDowell 244.15 4 L Donald 215.59 5 I Poulter 211.44 6 E Molinari 202.62 7 J Rose 190.42 8 M Kaymer 181.58 9 P Harrington 176.27 10 F Molinari 160.8 European Points List Pos Player Points 1 L Westwood 3,446,137.87 2 G McDowell 2,225,305.78 3 I Poulter 2,205,624.99 4 R McIlroy 1,918,290.61 5 M Kaymer 1,554,025.08 6 F Molinari 1,464,537.75 7 M-A Jiminez 1,442,489.69 8 R McGowan 1,347,432.30 9 P Casey 1,327,184.29 10 L Donald 1,250,274.88 * European team consists of the top four players on the world points list and five other players on the European points list plus three captain's picks