Darren Clarke Reflects On 2016 Ryder Cup Captaincy
Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke had the honour of being Team Europe Ryder Cup Captain in 2016 after serving as a vice captain three times.
The now 55-year-old’s impact on the Ryder Cup has been tremendous. Clarke was involved in all but one Ryder Cup from his debut in 1997 up until his captaincy in 2016. That’s almost 20 years where he was a key part of European squads in the biggest team event of them all, and some would argue the biggest golf tournament of them all.
In an exclusive interview with BoyleSports, Clarke opens up on the experience of being the 2016 Team Europe Ryder Cup Captain. The 2011 Open Champion was candid as he described both the elation of being selected to represent Europe as captain and later the lingering disappointment after Team Europe’s loss at Hazeltine.
Ahead of the 2023 Ryder Cup, where there will be eight rookies, Clarke went on to offer fascinating insights into the challenge of mentoring Ryder Cup rookies and the nature of gamesmanship at the big event.
2016 Ryder Cup Captaincy
Ryder Cup Captain Selection Process
There was a few of us in the running for the captaincy. I was down in South Africa when I found out and I got a call in the afternoon to say that I had been selected as captain and it was a huge honour to receive that call because you don’t know who is going to be captain.
It was a huge moment in my career when I look back at it, starting my career in 1990 playing a few events to getting the Ryder Cup captaincy.
Clarke Recounts Memories of Hazeltine
With that being said, the moment I got the captaincy, I put my heart and soul into it. You try and prepare. You try to come up with formulas and plans to help you become as successful as you can be.
As a player you’re trying to execute the best shots on the golf course but as a captain, you’re trying to get a team together and enable those guys to perform at their best.
The Ryder Cup is the highest level of sport and that week we did as much as we could. Unfortunately, the American team played a bit better. If I made some better decisions as captain, maybe we might have had a better chance but that’s part of the role. If you win, you’re a genius, if you lose, you’re a useless idiot.
Do I still think about losing in 2016? Yes I do.
I’ve had some high moments in my career and I’ve had some low moments in my career. Losing as a captain was one of the low ones.
Mentoring Ryder Cup Rookies
Europe and the USA are going into this with four rookies apiece. How do they not crumble under this new level of pressure?
Because they go into their routines. They’re given advice by the senior players in the team and the guys that have been there before.
You’ve got to prepare yourself as best you can in that moment when you make your first Ryder Cup appearance, hitting your first-tee ball, it’s like nothing you will ever experience in your career.
It’s the most pressure-packed situation but you’re helped along the way by your teammates, your captain and your vice-captain, the guys that make you understand that it’s ok to be nervous. Your hands are going to be shaking but that’s standard.
You have to embrace and realise that you’re in the Ryder Cup for a reason and that you’re one of the best players in the world.
Who Will Be The Best European Rookie?
I can’t answer that question. Some guys may do great but other guys may not do so well. You have to embrace the whole scenario. It’s a tough one to answer.
I know Luke and the vice-captains will be trying to prepare his rookies as best they can.
You can’t judge how a player is going to play based on their personality. Everybody deals with pressure and nerves in different ways.
Sledging At The Ryder Cup?
There’s a little bit of banter but there’s never any sledging going on.
We’re a well-behaved lot for the most part. There’s banter afterwards between the winners and losers but it’s golf so it’s respectful banter. There’s gamesmanship but it never crosses the line.
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