Golf: Captain Clarke has to carry the can for Europe's flop

Team Europe players looking dejected at the closing ceremony of the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club.
Team Europe players looking dejected at the closing ceremony of the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Questions have been asked of Europe captain Darren Clarke's leadership after his side were defeated by the Americans.
Questions have been asked of Europe captain Darren Clarke's leadership after his side were defeated by the Americans.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

CHASKA • Even before defeat for Europe was confirmed on Sunday, questions were being asked of Darren Clarke's captaincy.

A captain proves his worth over the first two days, when team chemistry is critical, and with Europe trailing 61/2-91/2 before Sunday's singles, it was hardly a ringing endorsement of his stewardship.

The result was a clear humiliation. Clarke said afterwards that he would not have changed anything, but there was scope to do so:

The picks

Clarke picked Thomas Pieters on form and the Belgian delivered. He picked Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer on reputation and they did not.

Russell Knox had shown better form than Kaymer or Westwood, performed well in the FedExCup and is ranked 19th in the world, higher than seven members of the European side. Rookie or not, Knox should have been at Hazeltine.

Willett-gate

The first mistake with Pete Willett's incendiary article about the "baying mob of imbeciles" who make up the US gallery was that Clarke interrupted Danny Willett's practice to tell him about the article, which unsettled the Masters champion for the rest of his round.

The second was to treat the episode as a grave international affair when it could have been kicked into the long grass with a brief apology.

When Willett was left out of the opening session, Clarke claimed he had always planned it that way, but team sources suggest otherwise.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it

Sergio Garcia and Rafael Cabrera Bello produced a remarkable display in the Saturday morning foursomes to halve their match with Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth.

However, Clarke split the Spaniards up for the afternoon four-balls. Garcia was paired with Kaymer and Cabrera Bello was rested. Unsurprisingly, Kaymer and Garcia were beaten 2&1 by Phil Mickelson and Matt Kuchar.

Different frequency

Paul O'Connell is an Irish rugby legend but many of the European team know next to nothing about rugby, which raises questions of why Clarke thought O'Connell was the right man to deliver a motivational speech to the team.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 04, 2016, with the headline 'Captain Clarke has to carry the can for Europe's flop'. Print Edition | Subscribe