Tom Watson’s return engagement as U.S. Ryder Cup captain was such a shock to Darren Clarke that last year’s British Open champion may have added Colin Montgomerie’s name beside his and Paul McGinley’s on the ballot for 2014 European team skipper.
A race many believed had come down to a two-man playoff between Clarke and McGinley seems to have blown wide open in the wake of the appointment of 63-year-old Watson, who managed the victorious 1993 team at The Belfry in England. Clarke, for one, believes the Euros may have to break with tradition and re-anoint a former cup commander of their own if they hope to trump the Americans’ “big statement” assignment of Watson to lead his troops at Scotland’s Gleneagles two years hence.
“There are few more iconic figures in golf, he’s adored in Scotland, and it sends out a statement that they are very serious about winning the trophy back,” Clarke, in London Friday to receive the PGA Recognition Award, told reporters. “Maybe we have to have a look and consider other people as well. Whoever it is standing on that stage opposite Tom Watson needs a huge presence.”
That distinctive deportment is surely something Colin Montgomerie would provide.
Clarke also pontificated about needing “the right man for the job.
“We do have an [unwritten] rule where we don’t ask anybody to do it again,” he said, noting that he would like to play one more time in the biennial event, “but we might have to look at that.”
Should European Tour officials change the play at the line of scrimmage, we’re guessing Monty (who’s currently Gronk-spiking a round, dimpled orb over his upcoming induction into the World Golf Hall of Fame) could be double-covered and still jumping up and down and shouting, “Me! I’m open! Throw me the damn ball!”
Montgomerie, after all, likely secured his not exactly landslide HoF victory (51 percent of the international balloting) on the strength of his Ryder Cup career. The eight-time top-ranked European golfer went undefeated in singles play in eight straight cup appearances and steered his team to victory in 2010 at Celtic Manor.
Monty bleeds European blue and yellow. The 49-year-old Scot was all over Medinah in September as a color analyst for Sky Sports and Golf Channel, as well as in an informal capacity as head cheerleader for the away team. He has, as always, been unfettered in his opinions on all things Ryder Cup.
Montgomerie contended this week, for example, that the several Euro golfers who play -- and in many cases, live -- in the U.S., should compete closer to home.
“We need to get our team to Gleneagles [site of the ’14 matches],” he told the Daily Mail's Mark Garrod. “We have to have that advantage. In 1997 our biggest advantage was Valderrama. The Americans had three days to prepare, we had 10 years.”
Montgomerie also suggested that European Tour officials pick pilots for the next two teams at the same time -- as they did when they named Ian Woosnam and Nick Faldo for 2006 and 2008, respectively.
"There is an opportunity to do two at one time again," he said. "Both [Clarke and McGinley] are respected in the game and great candidates.”
Bottom line, of course, was to choose “the best man for the job,” Montgomerie said.
That man, hinted Clarke, could well be Monty, who -- prior to the announcement of his HoF selection -- begged off such approaches.
“It’s the greatest honor bestowed on any European golfer to captain one’s Ryder Cup team,” he told Sky Sports after Watson accepted the U.S. captaincy. “I had that honor and managed to just about succeed but, at the same time, I think it is a one-hit deal now and I think the days of Tony Jacklin having done it four times and Bernard Gallacher three are in the past.
“There are some great candidates within the European Tour and I wish them well,” said Montgomery.
In the flush of his Hall of Fame honor, might Montgomery reconsider and toss his golf visor into the ring? A (very) little coaxing from Clarke, today’s slight favorite to take over the 2014 European team (as was David Toms for a time for the American gig, so things change), could go a long way toward convincing Captain Doubtfire to answer the call of duty one more time.