Golf: McIlroy backs Clarke to captain Europe and defend Ryder Cup in the US in 2016

Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland plays a shot during the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship in the capital of the United Arab Emirates on Jan 16, 2015. Rory McIlroy wants fellow Northern Irishman Darren Clarke to captain Europe's Ryder Cup team in 201
Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland plays a shot during the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship in the capital of the United Arab Emirates on Jan 16, 2015. Rory McIlroy wants fellow Northern Irishman Darren Clarke to captain Europe's Ryder Cup team in 2016 in what is shaping up to be a battle between the former British Open champion and Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez. -- PHOTO: AFP

DUBAI (Reuters) - Rory McIlroy wants fellow Northern Irishman Darren Clarke to captain Europe's Ryder Cup team in 2016 in what is shaping up to be a battle between the former British Open champion and Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez.

Europe will seek a fourth successive win against the United States in Minnesota and speculation is already rife as to who will lead the defending champions.

"I'm going to be a little biased - Darren is a good friend of mine and from Northern Ireland, so it would be great to see him get the captaincy, but if it was to be Miguel, then I'd have no problems with that either," McIlroy told a news conference.

"They are going to have a tough decision," he added ahead of this week's Dubai Desert Classic.

On Tuesday, world No. 2 Henrik Stenson and sixth-ranked Sergio Garcia, both team stalwarts, told reporters it would likely be a straight fight between Clarke and Jimenez over who will replace 2014 skipper Paul McGinley.

"I always thought Darren would be a perfect fit for captaincy in the States," said McIlroy. "People love him over there and he'll do well, but people love Miguel anywhere he goes and the more he plays on the Champions Tour, he's going to become more popular as well.

"They are both quality candidates and great players. As long as I'm on the team and they decide to play me, I'm happy enough."

McIlroy said he expected to be consulted by a five-man panel that will choose the captain, a decision that used to be made by the players. The committee includes former skippers McGinley, Jose Maria Olazabal and Colin Montgomerie.