Golf: Clarke named 2016 European Ryder Cup captain

In a file picture taken on May 24, 2013, Northern-Irish golfer Darren Clarke looks on as he waits to putt on the15th green during the second round of the PGA Championship at Wentworth Golf Club in Surrey, England. Clarke has been appointed captain of
In a file picture taken on May 24, 2013, Northern-Irish golfer Darren Clarke looks on as he waits to putt on the15th green during the second round of the PGA Championship at Wentworth Golf Club in Surrey, England. Clarke has been appointed captain of Europe for the 2016 Ryder Cup against the United States (US), the European team announced on Wednesday. -- PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) - Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke has been appointed captain of Europe for the 2016 Ryder Cup against the United States (US), the European team announced on Wednesday.

"I am naturally extremely proud to be selected as European Ryder Cup captain for 2016," Clarke said in a statement on the European Ryder Cup team website.

"The Ryder Cup has been a massive part of my life and my career, so to have the chance to lead Europe next year is a huge honour." Former British Open champion Clarke, 46, beat off competition from Miguel Angel Jimenez and Thomas Bjorn to succeed Paul McGinley, who led Europe to a five-point victory over US at Gleneagles last September.

Clarke, who was the favourite for the role, played in five Ryder Cups and was vice-captain in 2010 and 2012.

He will now lead Europe's bid for a fourth successive victory at Hazeltine in Chaska, Minnesota on September 30-October 2 next year.

"I am lucky to have played and worked under some fantastic captains in my seven Ryder Cups to date and I look forward to the challenge of trying to follow in their footsteps and help Europe to a fourth consecutive Ryder Cup victory at Hazeltine next year," Clarke added.

McGinley joined predecessors Jose Maria Olazabal and Colin Montgomerie, European Tour chief executive George O'Grady and players' representative David Howell on a five-man selection panel that convened to appoint a new captain at Wentworth, south-west of London.

McGinley's relationship with Clarke was believed to have become strained after the latter reneged on a pledge not to challenge McGinley for the captaincy in 2014.

But after leading Europe to a 16.5-11.5 success at Gleneagles, McGinley said that he would not let his personal feelings colour his thoughts about who should succeed him.

European team member Justin Rose was quick to congratulate Clarke, writing on Instagram: "Congratulations @darrenclarke60 on being appointed the #rydercupteameur Captain". Clarke's last Ryder Cup appearance as a player, at Ireland's K Club in 2006, was one of raw emotion, as he won all three of his matches just weeks after his first wife, Heather, had died from cancer.

The US are due to announce their captain next week, with reports suggesting former captain Davis Love will be given an opportunity to atone for his role in Europe's famous comeback victory at Medinah in 2012.