Lee Westwood backs Darren Clarke to be next Ryder Cup captain

Darren Clarke could be the next Ryder Cup captain

Darren Clarke could be the next Ryder Cup captain

Lee Westwood has unsurprisingly added his voice to those backing Darren Clarke to be Europe’s next Ryder Cup captain.

World number one Rory McIlroy has already said he feels Clarke would be an ideal captain in the United States in two years' time, and the former Open champion's friend and long-time stablemate Westwood agrees.

"It's about the right time in Darren's career to take up the captaincy," said Westwood said. "He is very popular in the United States and I think he would make a good captain."

Clarke is odds-on favourite to lead the European side at Hazeltine in 2016, although his strained relationship with victorious skipper Paul McGinley may have a bearing on the selection process.

The 46-year-old sent McGinley a letter in 2011 supporting his bid to become captain in 2014, but later changed his mind and also put himself forward for the role.

And when Tom Watson was named US captain in December 2012, Clarke suggested 2010 captain Colin Montgomerie should also be considered as ''whoever it is standing on that stage opposite Tom Watson needs a huge presence''.

With the public backing of players such as McIlroy, Luke Donald and Ian Poulter, McGinley subsequently won the day but admitted recently that his conversations with Clarke were now ''short and sweet'' and amounted to little more than passing pleasantries.

Graeme McDowell has urged Clarke and McGinley to put their differences aside and McGinley insisted on Monday that his relationship with Clarke would not unduly influence his role in the new selection process.

Since 1999, the captain was selected by the European Tour's 15-strong tournament committee, but changes announced in August last year mean the responsibility now falls to the previous three captains (McGinley, Jose Maria Olazabal and Montgomerie), the Tour's chief executive and a tournament committee representative.

Westwood would also like to be captain "somewhere down the line," but for now wants to concentrate on playing and becoming Europe's record points scorer in the event.

Two wins alongside Jamie Donaldson in the foursomes at Gleneagles took the 41-year-old's tally to 23, half a point more than the late Seve Ballesteros and two behind Nick Faldo's record.

"You like to set records and I set one by being on seven winning teams, so I would like to set the record points tally," added Westwood.

Speaking about his partnership with Donaldson, the former world number one added: "It's part of the responsibility of being one of the veteran players. I did it with Martin Kaymer at Celtic Manor and with Soren Hansen before (in 2008).

"But it did not feel like I was playing with a rookie with Jamie. He has a similar game to me and he settled into it nicely. He did not seem to feel the pressure."

Donaldson went on to secure the winning point with victory over Keegan Bradley in the singles.

Darren Clarke wants to be Ryder Cup captain

Clarke and McGinley steeped in Ryder Cup history

Clarke and McGinley steeped in Ryder Cup history

Darren Clarke has confirmed he wants to be Europe’s Ryder Cup captain in 2016, but an unhealthy relationship with outgoing skipper Paul McGinley may not help his cause.

McGinley and Clarke are believed to have fallen out in recent years and with the man who led Europe's to another Ryder Cup win on Sunday involved in picking the next captain, that could hamper the chances of a second successive Irishman landing the prestigious job.

Yet 2011 Open champions Clarke has made it clear that he would relish the chance to lead Europe as they defend the Ryder Cup on American soil two years from now.

“I would love to be at some stage, but that’s up to the committee to decide,” stated Clarke. 

“They will have a list of potential candidates and look at each one on merit, discuss it and decide which guy is best. Obviously it would be a huge honour. 

"If they would offer me the position I would love to do it at some stage.”

Ryder Cup hero Graeme McDowell believes personal differences between McGinley and Clarke should not affect the decision on the next Ryder Cup captain.

"Darren and Paul should put their differences aside," said McDowell. "Darren needs to spend some time talking to Paul about the way he [McGinley] has conducted himself this week."

When asked if his relationship with Clarke would be a problem for Clarke's push to be Ryder Cup skipper, McGinley said: "Absolutely no problem whatsoever. I'm going to be very professional in my input.

"I'm going to get opinions from a lot of players and a lot of people before I put my opinion forward as to what it will be. Just like I was very much pushed over the line by the players, I want to get the opinion of the players.

"I think we're very fortunate in Europe, a little bit like the Liverpool soccer team and the boot room, I think a lot of us have benefited hugely from being vice-captains. Darren has been a vice-captain along with many other guys.

"We will see where that all evolves and I'll make a professional decision based on the views of people that I respect."

Murray comes back from the dead to win in China

Murray wins in China

Murray wins in China

Andy Murray looked beaten in the China heat as he fell 6-2 behind in a second set tie-break and opponent Tommy Robredo moved within one point of victory.

Yet half an hour later and the Scot had hauled himself out of a huge hole, with his battling qualities coming to the fore as he dug out a 5-7 7-6 (11/9) 6-1 win against a Spanish rival who was a broken man by the time the final point was played.

In total, Murray saved five match points as he claimed his first title since Wimbledon 2013, with his tears at the end highlighting what a roller-coaster ride he had been through to get that winning feeling all over again.

Spaniard Robredo could barely walk to the net come the end of a gruelling contest played in intense heat in southern China, with Murray's remarkably high levels of fitness being richly rewarded.

Murray had capped a glorious 12 months with his Wimbledon triumph in July 2013, which came in the wake of Olympic gold and the US Open title, but back surgery later in the year ended his season early.

"Today was obviously an incredibly tough match, the conditions are so hard to play in," said Murray in the on-court presentation. "I just tried to fight till the end."

"I got lucky, basically, at the end of the second set. I fought hard, tried my best and thankfully managed to turn it round.

"Tommy had a great tournament. He probably deserved to win the match today. He had the opportunities in the second set, but sometimes that happens in sport."

This win gives Murray another 250 points in his bid to reach the end of year ATP World Tour finals, with only the game's top eight players of 2014 being granted a pass for the event in London. The Scot moves up to 10th in that list ahead of his final three events of the regular season.

ATP RACE TO THE WORLD TOUR FINALS

Qualified: 1st: Novak Djokovic (8,150 points); 2nd: Roger Federer (7,020); 3rd: Rafael Nadal (6,645)

Still to qualify: 4th: Stan Wawrinka (4,795), 5th: Marin Cilic (3,935), 6th: Kei Nishikori (3,675), 7th: David Ferrer (3,535), 8th: Tomas Berdych (3,510), 9th: Milos Raonic (3,440), 10th: Andy Murray (3,405) 11. Grigor Dimitrov (3,355)

Murray's schedule: Beijing – 500 points to the winner; Shanghai – 1,000; Paris – 1,000

McIlroy partners Garcia in fourball matches

Rory McIlroy partners Sergio Garcia in first fourball session

Rory McIlroy partners Sergio Garcia in first fourball session

Ryder Cup captains Paul McGinley and Tom Watson saved the best win until last in their first set of pairings for tomorrow’s first series of Ryder Cup fourball matches at Gleneagles.

After this afternoon's Opening Ceremony, the two men named their teams and the match they catches the eye is the last of the four out on course, Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia for Europe against Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley for the US.

McIlroy and Garcia are birdie machines and with each man playing his own ball, one of the pair can afford a wild shot here and there, as long as his partner is close to the fairway or the pin.

Mickelson and Bradley were a brilliant pairing for the US two years ago, winning all three of their games together. They feed off each other and this could be a match to remember.

From an Irish point of view, McGinley has benched Graeme McDowell. Presumably the 2014 French Open winner will play in the afternoon foursomes.

MORNING FOURBALLS (first tee-off - 07:35am)

Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson v Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson

Thomas Bjorn and Martin Kaymer v Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker

Stephen Gallacher and Ian Poulter v Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed 

Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy v Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson

 

Mickelson has jovial dig at Irish duo

Being cheeky - Phil Mickelson

Being cheeky – Phil Mickelson

Ryder Cup veteran Phil Mickelson offered up a devious snipe at Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell as he staged his pre-Ryder Cup press briefing at Gleneagles.

There has been much debate over the tarnished personal relationship between McIlroy and McDowell in light of the world number one's court case against his former management company, which has brought the two Irishmen into conflict with each other.

Both players and captain Paul McGinley have allayed any concerns but in trying to accentuate the togetherness of the United States team Mickelson joked about the issue.

"Not only are we able to play together, we also don't litigate against each other and that's a real plus, I feel, heading into this week," said the 44-year-old, who added with a smile: "I couldn't resist."

Mickelson's comment was cheeky rather than crude, but it adds fuel to the fire simmering ahead of the eagerly anticipated Europe v USA showdown, which gets under way this Friday.

European captain Paul McGinley later declined to comment on the remark while USA team-mate Rickie Fowler said: "Phil's always Phil, that's why we love him.

"We hear a lot of those one-liners in practice rounds in Tuesday games so it's nothing new to me."

Mickelson will become the first American to play in 10 Ryder Cups this week when he will reprise the partnership with Keegan Bradley.

"I've got a good partner that obviously I'm going to play again with Keegan. I don't think I'm letting go of any secrets here," said the left-hander.