Clarke was one of three candidates for the 2016 captaincy, along with Miguel Angel Jimenez and Thomas Bjorn.
“It’s a huge honor for me,” he said. “It’s another part of my golfing career that I could never have imagined when I started off. To be given the honor of leading the team is massive for me.”
The final decision was made by the five-man selection committee, comprised of past captains Colin Montgomerie, Jose Maria Olazabal and Paul McGinley, European Tour CEO George O’Grady and former Ryder Cupper David Howell. The group assembled Wednesday for two hours at European Tour headquarters outside London.
The decision was unanimous.
“This will be a difficult task for Europe,” Montgomerie said, “but we have the best man for the job in place to try and retain that Ryder Cup.”
Added O'Grady: “It was Darren’s time.”
Of great interest to many observers during the run-up to the announcement was how McGinley, the 2014 captain, would vote. McGinley and Clarke had been close since their early days on tour, but their friendship soured a few years ago over the Gleneagles captaincy.
Clarke promised to allow McGinley a free run at the job, only to throw his name into contention at the last minute. When he withdrew from consideration, he backed Montgomerie, not McGinley, saying that the European captain “needs a huge presence” to counter the Americans’ choice of Tom Watson.
Beloved by his players and credited with a near-flawless game plan, McGinley extended the Europeans’ run of dominance. Their five-point blowout at Gleneagles was Europe’s sixth Ryder Cup win in the last seven matches.
Last week, McGinley said he would put aside his personal differences and vote for Clarke.
“I think Paul did such an amazing job that if I wasn’t to follow in his footprints that would be foolish,” Clarke said. “I think Paul found a successful formula and hopefully I can tap into that.”
Said McGinley: “It’s not a case of ripping up everything we’ve done before and starting again. It’s an evolution of where we’ve come from and hopefully a continuation.”
Clarke, 46, was a five-time Ryder Cup participant (10-7-3 record) and twice served as a vice captain, in 2010 and ’12. Only once has he been a part of a losing team, in 1999, when the Americans staged an incredible final-day rally to win.
A 14-time European Tour winner who captured the 2011 Open Championship, Clarke had the support of many of Europe’s biggest names, including world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter.
Long considered the frontrunner, Clarke has been unequivocal in his desire for the job, while Jimenez and Bjorn – both of whom are ranked inside the top 50 in the world – have expressed an interest in qualifying for the 2016 squad.
“That would be wonderful,” Clarke said. “We’re very good friends. There isn’t a nicer man in our sport.”
Clarke and Love have enjoyed a long friendship. At the 2004 Ryder Cup, they halved their singles match after Love declined to take relief from a sprinkler head.
Clarke missed the cut when the PGA Championship was held at Hazeltine in 2002.