How do you follow a captain like Paul McGinley? That’s the question a newly created selection panel will ask itself next year. The last eight European Ryder Cup captains have been awarded the position after being nominated by the European Tour’s Tournament Committee and approved by the Ryder Cup Board. But from now on Europe’s captain will be selected by a five-man panel consisting of the past three European Captains (Colin Montgomerie, Jose Maria Olazabal and Paul McGinley), the Chief Executive of the European Tour (George O’Grady) and one representative from the 14-player Tournament Committee (David Howell). TG assesses the candidates this quintet will consider.
According to the bookies, the job is Clarke’s if he wants it. And boy does he want it. “I’d love to be the next captain,” Clarke admits, before describing the role as “the ultimate honour”. Add his superb relationship with American fans, his Ryder Cup record and his popularity on Tour and it’s clear to see why he’s the short-priced favourite. The only issue could be his relationship with Paul McGinley. The formerly close friends drifted apart when Clarke stood for the 2014 captaincy, despite sending McGinley a letter saying he wouldn’t. “I'll make a professional decision based on the views of people that I respect,” said McGinley.
Best odds: 1-4; TG chance-o-meter: 9
Miguel Angel Jimenez
The most interesting man in golf would be the most interesting Ryder Cup captain of all time. But while practice ground stretching routines, on-course cigars and Rioja-fuelled team meetings hold a certain appeal, we believe Miguel’s eccentricities will ensure that the panel demands further proof of his leadership skills before offering him the top job. He led the Europeans to a draw in the inaugural EurAsia Cup last March and we expect Miguel’s training to continue as follows: He’ll be asked to captain Continental Europe in the 2015 Seve Trophy. If that goes well, he’ll be named vice-captain for the 2016 Ryder Cup and captain for the 2018 matches in Paris.
Best odds: 8-1; TG chance-o-meter: 7
The Great Dane is an extremely popular three-time vice-captain who will definitely be awarded the captaincy at some point, but we don’t think that will be 2016. Firstly, if he keeps up his current form then he’s going to be on the team. Secondly, his friendship with Darren Clarke means he is unlikely to run against him. Thirdly, we think he’ll spend the next year or so focusing on his country’s campaign to host the matches in 2022 - a drive that will turn heads if it highlights the potential of a ‘Denmark 2022 host, Bjorn 2022 captain’ double.
Best odds: 7-1; TG chance-o-meter: 6
After playing in half-a-dozen Ryder Cups, Harrington cut his vice-captaincy teeth at Gleneagles and performed his tasks – which included serving Thomas Bjorn coffee and running to the Portaloo to fetch Victor Dubuisson’s discarded putter – admirably. The Irishman’s US PGA win and popularity in America make him an obvious choice to captain Europe in the States. But having just turned 43, we believe he’ll focus on re-finding his form in a bid to make the team in 2016 and 2018, before making a concerted effort to be named captain at Whistling Straits in 2020.
Best odds: 25-1; TG chance-o-meter: 5
“Paul is the most wonderful captain,” says Rory McIlroy. “You could base your future captaincy around the way Paul did it,” believes Lee Westwood. “Every single aspect he needed to touch on, he did,” gushes Sergio Garcia. In other words, if it were up to the players, captain fantastic Paul McGinley would be at the helm forever and ever. Now they just need to convince the man himself. “No, I’ve done my piece,” is McGinley’s current answer, but time could change this. After all, Sir Steve Redgrave once gave people permission to shoot him if he ever went near a boat again…
Best odds: 25-1; TG chance-o-meter: 6
Would Monty really have the guts to vote for himself? You bet he would. The Scot will be in no doubt that he is the best man to captain Europe in 2016, 2018, 2020 or whatever year they happen to hold a Ryder Cup. His problem will be convincing the other four members of the panel that he is a) deserving of a second chance, b) better than the other candidates and c) popular enough with the American crowds. We can’t imagine this happening, so expect to see him on Sky Sports, rather than the thick of the action, come 2016.
Best odds: 40-1; TG chance-o-meter: 2
Sir Nick Faldo
Here’s a guide to making yourself the least likely person to be picked as European Captain for the 2016 Ryder Cup, by Sir Nicholas Alexander Faldo. Step one: oversee Europe’s only Ryder Cup defeat this Millennium. Step two: six years on, call Sergio Garcia “useless”. Step three: issue an apology that changes “useless” to “lousy”. “You know, there’s a lot of things I could say about Nick Faldo, but I am not going to put myself down to his level,” retorted Garcia. Suffice to say we don’t expect to hear Faldo’s name when the captain is announced early next year.
Best odds: 125-1; TG chance-o-meter: 0