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Too many qualified candidates for 2014 Euro Ryder Cup captain

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So there’s this boy – let’s call him Paul – who is in love with a girl. He’s like your prototypical nice guy from the movies. Helps her with homework. Listens to her problems. Gets her home safely when she’s had too much to drink.

Paul is infatuated with this girl. He knows her favorite color. Makes her a new mix tape every week. The guy’s even written sappy poetry about her.

So what’s the problem? She still only sees him as a friend. Anytime they’ve discussed the possibility of a relationship, he offers up those puppy dog eyes only to have her look right into them and like a knife to the heart proclaim, “I love you, but I’m not in love with you.”

There’s another boy – let’s call him Darren – who is falling for this girl, too. He just has a different way of showing it.

Darren is one of the cool kids. Walks cool, talks cool, wears cool shades. Everybody swoons over him and the girl has started to take notice and do some swooning of her own.

And why wouldn’t she? He’s the proverbial life of the party, the kind of boy who has a good time wherever he goes. They’ve recently started spending more time together and, well, she’s starting to think this could be a long-term type of thing.

All of which leads to the question I know you’re dying to ask: What does any of this have to do with golf?

The answer: Everything. Because Paul is Paul McGinley and Darren is Darren Clarke – and the girl is the 2014 European Ryder Cup captaincy.

And yes, someone could easily make a cheesy ‘80s film about the flirtations and dalliances that McGinley and Clarke have made toward being the next man in charge of the European squad that will defend its title at Gleneagles.

Prior to the historic come-from-behind win at Medinah a few weeks ago, it was believed that McGinley was in the driver’s seat for the role. He served as vice captain two years ago at Celtic Manor and again this time, reporting directly to Jose Maria Olazabal.

That gives him an impressive 2-0 record as an assistant, but his resume hardly ends there. McGinley was 3-0 as a Ryder Cup competitor, helping the team to victories in the 2002, 2004 and 2006 editions of the event, where he compiled a 2-2-5 overall record. He also played for the winning side twice in the Royal Trophy and twice in the Seve Trophy, then twice served as captain in the latter for the GB&I team and – you got it – won them both.

Add ‘em all up and that’s an 11-0 record for all major professional international team competitions in which he’s been involved. Not too shabby.

McGinley may not own the playing pedigree of other captains – he has just four career European Tour wins and has never finished better than sixth place in a major championship – but he has the respect of every player who has competed alongside him.

That’s not to say Clarke doesn’t, though. After likewise serving as vice captain for Olazabal this year, his stock began to soar – so much so that last year’s Open Championship winner took to Twitter to deny claims that he had already been offered the job.

'To clarify..I have not been offered the Ryder Cup captaincy,' he tweeted on Oct. 10. 'It's not decided by the committee until January. Would be a huge honour if asked.'

Why is Clarke suddenly surging ahead like the European team on Sunday at Medinah? The prevailing feeling is that the girl whom everybody wants is most attracted to the cool guy who has a good time wherever he goes.

Even some major players acknowledge those traits.

“He's a major champion, a very good public speaker, which has to be taken into account,” Lee Westwood recently told reporters. '[He's] tactically very astute. Darren has a lot of things going for him.'

In offering up a comparison between the two candidates, Westwood added, 'Paul has played three [Ryder Cups], Darren has played five and got a major championship and won a lot more tournaments than Paul. You have to have a criteria somewhere and I think Darren just edges it for me.'

The truth is, each man vying for that girl’s affection can make a case for why he should be the one to win her over. In due time, she may be with each of them, but there are many other potential suitors knocking at her door, too.

Thomas Bjorn and Miguel Angel Jimenez – each of whom also served as an assistant under Olazabal – are among candidates for the open position, and others aren’t too far away from throwing their hats into the ring, either.

'I think these two [Clarke and McGinley] deserve a chance, but I think Thomas deserves a chance and also Paul Lawrie,' Olazabal said after winning. 'Once those guys do it, we have Lee [Westwood] and Padraig [Harrington].'

Hey, a girl’s got a reputation to uphold. She can’t be with every boy in town.

Therein lies the biggest problem for the European Tour’s tournament committee, which will ultimately make the decision.

While the American side rips a page from “The Fugitive” – looking in every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse for a man who can lead its team to victory – the reigning champion apparently has too many qualified candidates. What it means is that much like Larry Nelson and Mark O’Meara have never captained a U.S. team, worthy European skippers will likely see their opportunities vanish for no good reason at all, other than somebody else beating them out for the job.

As for this time around, only one boy will get the girl. It’s starting to look like the cool guy is winning her over, potentially leaving the lovelorn nice guy with a broken heart once again.