Oddsmakers still list Darren Clarke as the heavy favorite to land the 2016 European Ryder Cup captaincy, but Miguel Angel Jimenez has apparently re-entered the race in what could amount to a popularity contest.
After saying in a Spanish TV interview that he had second thoughts about accepting the position because he wasn’t ready to take the focus away from his game, the 51-year-old Jimenez told reporters in Abu Dhabi recently that he wants the job “with passion.”
The five-man selection committee, which consists of Paul McGinley, Jose Maria Olazabal, Colin Montgomerie, David Howell and George O’Grady, is scheduled to meet sometime in the next few weeks to make a decision.
Indeed, it’s down to a two-man race, and each candidate has its drawbacks, from Clarke’s critics to Jimenez’s communication skills.
Though Ryder Cup veterans Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia firmly straddled the fence when pressed publicly for their preference, Rory McIlroy said in a news conference Wednesday in Dubai (via Reuters): “I’m going to be a little biased – Darren is a good friend of mine and from Northern Ireland, so it would be great to see him get the captaincy. But if it were to be Miguel then I’d have no problems with that, either. … They are going to have a tough decision.”
Many still expect Clarke to land the gig, but Jimenez’s popularity and renewed interest cannot be ignored. The player dubbed the “Most Interesting Man in Golf” won the Champions Tour’s season opener last week in Hawaii.
“I always thought Darren would be a perfect fit for captaincy in the States,” McIlroy told reporters. “People love him over there and he’ll do well, but people love Miguel anywhere he goes and the more he plays on the Champions Tour, he’s going to become more popular as well.
“They are both quality candidates and great players. As long as I’m on the team and they decide to play me, I’m happy enough.”