Lots of Love for Clarke’s Ryder Cup Appointment

Barely a few months after Europe tastes Ryder Cup victory once again at the 2014 tournament at Gleneagles, the build up to the 2016 tournament at Hazeltine in Minnesota has begun in earnest with the appointment of the two captains for the event.

And far from the Brawl at Brookline of 1999, the appointment of Davis Love III and Darren Clarke as captains could possibly lead to a further improvement in relations between the two teams.

Darren-Clarke-2011 British Open champion

Clarke and Love III are firm friends, Clarke is on record as saying that Love is “someone I have a lot of time for and one of my favourite people in  golf.”

Their friendship was perhaps best exemplified at the 2004 Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills. After facing each other in a fantastic match, the two players shared half a point on the 18th green and with the US team all sat to one side of the green, the European team on the other, Clarke and Love III found a spot in between the two, each lighting up a cigar to take in the moment.

“That moment sums up the level of our friendship” explained Clarke recently.

“We had played hard and both of us wanted to win, but when it was over we were pals again.

“That won’t change no matter what happens at Hazeltine.”

Clarke was appointed first by a European selection committee and he edged out Miguel Angel Jiminez and Thomas Bjorn for the post, though it was expected the Ulsterman would get the nod.

Both Jiminez and Bjorn (below) accepted the news gracefully (which hasn’t always been the case with the fiery Dane) and both have said they’ll aim to be part of Clarke’s team when the 2016 event gets under way.

Thomas Bjorn

Davis Love III’s appointment was a more protracted process. Following their loss at Gleneagles, and Phil Mickelson’s somewhat barbed comments about the captaincy of Tom Watson, the PGA set up a Ryder Cup committee to try and resolve why the American team has performed so poorly in recent times.

The result of this has been the re-appointment of Love for his second stint as captain. The American took charge of the team in 2012, when the Miracle at Medinah gave Europe an unlikely victory. Although Love may have lost that clash, Clarke is already well aware of his friends qualities.

“I thought he did a great job at Medinah in 2012,” stated Clarke.

“He was a victim of a spectacular performance from the Europeans, but what gets forgotten is that he led his team into a winning position, only for everything to go Europe’s way on the Sunday”

Love III will play a key role in future Ryder Cups for the American team too. Alongside Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, Love has been appointed as a permanent member of a Six Man US Ryder Cup committee, although what their role will be in future Ryder Cup’s is not yet clearly defined.

Love (pictured below with 2012 European captain Jose Maria Olazabal) was equally magnanimous in his appraisal of his European counterpart when he stated in his interview after being announced as captain.

RyderCup2012JoseandDavis

“Darren and I will have a lot of laughs, we’ll have a lot of fun. I know that and they will be well dressed.

“Darren is so well respected in the game, friends with so many players, a friend to all; he’s always got  a smile on his face.

“He’ll be a great leader, a great captain and that’s what I am so excited about, we get to spend a year and a half doing stuff like this with Darren Clarke. It will grow our friendship and we’ll have a lot of fun doing it.”

Love revealed that at the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, Clarke, who was an assistant captain for Europe as Love was for the United States, came over to join Love in the middle of the fairway. With a mischievious grin on his face, Clarke said to him that if the US appointed Love Ryder Cup captain, that Clarke wanted him to wait until he himself had been named European captain so they could face each other.

Fate, it seems has conspired that this will come to pass at Hazeltine in 2016.

So will 2016 see the friendly Ryder Cup?

There’s no doubt that this will be a huge contest, keenly fought with the American team desperate to make amends for recent disappointments and likely a partisan crowd, but let’s hope that fans and golfers can follow the example of their two captains and emerge with friendships intact and entente cordiale all round.

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