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.

Rickie proud to be American

Rickie Fowler with his new hair style

Rickie Fowler with his new hair style

Rickie Fowler has dismissed accusations of brashness over his much-discussed Ryder Cup haircut.

The in-form American arrived in Scotland for this week's match against Europe at Gleneagles with 'USA' shaved into his hair.

United States captain Tom Watson hailed it as "terrific" but some observers have been more critical, suggesting it is a cocky display of jingoism.

But Fowler said: "I'm just myself. I'm not trying to be anyone else. I'm not trying to fit in any particular way. I'm not trying to hurt anyone's feelings or turn anyone the wrong way.

"I'm just proud to be from the USA and be over here playing the Ryder Cup. If people take it the wrong way, it's too bad for them, it's unfortunate.

"You've got to show some patriotism and spirit for your country. Like I say, I'm excited and it's going to be a fun week."

Fowler, who was speaking at his pre-event press conference, was inevitably also asked about his friendship and rivalry with world number one and European linchpin Rory McIlroy.

The two players, both 25, have known each other since their days on the junior circuit and now live close to each other in Florida.

Fowler pushed McIlroy hard for both the Northern Irishman's major victories this year, at the Open and USPGA Championship, in which he finished tied second and third respectively.

McIlroy last week announced his charitable foundation would host the 2015 Irish Open at Royal County Down and Fowler is among the players set to be sounded out to compete.

"I'm really trying to work that into the schedule," Fowler said. "Royal County Down is probably my favourite golf course in the world.

"Some of that is due to the 2007 Walker Cup. It's a special place and I definitely would love to go back and have a chance to play there next year."

 

Gold for Wiggo in Spain

Bradley Wiggins won gold in the time trials at the World Road Championships in Spain

Bradley Wiggins won gold in the time trials at the World Road Championships in Spain

A perfectly-paced ride earned Sir Bradley Wiggins victory in the men’s time-trial at the Road World Championships in Spain.

The Olympic champion clocked 56 minutes 25.52 seconds for the 47.1-kilometre route in Ponferrada to win by an emphatic margin of 26.23secs.

Germany's Tony Martin, seeking a fourth straight world title, had to settle for silver in 56mins 51.75secs, while Tom Dumoulin of Holland finished in 57:06.16 to take bronze.

Commonwealth Games champion Alex Dowsett of Britain was 20th in 59:00.62.

It was Britain's first gold in the event in 20 years, since Chris Boardman won the inaugural edition of the road time-trial.

"I paced it perfectly," Wiggins told the UCI. "I still had gas in the final. Even on the last descent, I knew I was ahead, but I was pushing all the way.

"I don't know what to say. I knew coming into it that I had the legs. Once I saw the course I knew if I was ever going to beat Tony it would be here."

The 2012 Tour de France champion is a multiple world champion on the track but now has his first world title on the road.

Wiggins plans to return to the track for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and vowed this would be his last Road World Championships – and he signed off with victory.

Wiggins was second to Martin in 2011 and 2013, but overturned the German in winning the Olympic title at Hampton Court in 2012.

The 34-year-old Londoner was second to Martin at the first time-check, but then moved ahead by two seconds and then by more than nine seconds at the third time-check.

Wiggins crossed the line well clear of the rest of the field and with Martin the only man remaining on the course and the only man who could beat him.

And Wiggins put his thumb up when he learned Martin had been unable to surpass his performance.

Boardman won the first time-trial title in 1994, but Britain has had to settle for minor podium places since.

David Millar, who was stripped of the 2003 world time-trial title, is the captain of Britain's team for the men's road race on Sunday.

Wiggins has had a challenging year, missing out on Team Sky selection for the Tour de France, which began in Yorkshire, despite having placed an impressive ninth in Paris-Roubaix in April, won the Tour of California in May and the British Championships time-trial in June.

"It's been an up and down year," added Wiggins, who won the time-trial at the Tour of Britain earlier this month.

"I want to dedicate this to my family. My wife and children were there for me all summer and had to put up with me during (the Tour de France in) July."

Wiggins refocused for the team pursuit at Glasgow 2014, but England had to settle for silver behind the Australian quartet.

Commonwealth Games gold is one of the few titles to prove elusive to a rider six-time Olympic champion Sir Chris Hoy and Boardman have lauded as the most complete cyclist Britain has ever produced.

Whenever Wiggins has a target – as Ponferrada was – he invariably achieves it and now he has another rainbow jersey following six in the velodrome.

Wiggins has also announced his intention to ride for the Hour Record in 2015.

"That's the next thing now," he added.

"Just to add the world title to the British title and the Olympic title, I've got the set.

"Very Good. Along with the pursuit world titles it's fantastic."

McIlroy: Fergie’s speech was highlight of Ryder Cup so far

Sir Alex Ferguson speaks to the European Ryder team

Sir Alex Ferguson speaks to the European Ryder team

Rory McIlroy admitted he was in a trance listening to former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson address the European Ryder Cup team on Tuesday evening.

Ferguson was invited to Gleneagles by home captain Paul McGinley and, as a fan of the Red Devils, world number one McIlroy in particular was thrilled to listen to what Ferguson had to say.

"For me, being a Manchester United fan, it was the highlight of the week so far," said the Open champion, who paraded the Claret Jug at Old Trafford earlier this season.

"I was just sitting there and looking up at him and I didn't take my eyes off him. I was sort of in this trance just listening to everything that he was saying and I'm sort of thinking, this is all the stuff that he's probably said to Manchester United teams over the years.

"He told us a couple of stories just of past experiences in some big games and some of the players that he managed and it was a great evening. It was a really cool thing to be a part of."

McIlroy joked that the non-Manchester United fans in the team made their feelings known, adding: "But (it was) very useful because we got to ask some questions, just about different things and what he thought was the key element to being successful as a team.

"He's a very inspirational sort of man when he talks. He's got a lot of authority and the room just goes quiet and everyone listens."

Asked if Ferguson had offered advice about playing in front of large crowds, the 25-year-old added: "Not about crowds in general. We play in front of big crowds week in, week out.

"United were obviously favourites and whenever he was managing, they made Old Trafford a bit of a fortress. And when teams went there, it was very hard to compete against United. He was just talking a bit about that. We're slight favourites for a reason. We deserve to be. We've played well this year. It's not something that we should shy away from. It's something that we should embrace."

It has become a habit for big names from different sports to be brought in to speak to Ryder Cup teams, McIlroy admitting the one he remembers most was speaking to Seve Ballesteros via teleconference at Celtic Manor in 2010.

And he added: "These things, they help. They are little details in the bigger picture, but it could be that half a per cent or that one per cent that helps us to get back that little trophy."

Real Madrid fan Sergio Garcia conceded he was not Ferguson's biggest fan, but added: "I think when you have the possibility of listening to somebody that has been up there in sports and been able to perform at a really high level for that long, it's always interesting to kind of pick his brain and see what things he's gone through.

"It was really, really interesting, and I'm actually glad that I got to… I think we all did, got to know him a little bit better and listen to him a little bit."

Celtic fan Stephen Gallacher revealed he had received a good luck message from former Parkhead boss Martin O'Neill, but was also impressed by Ferguson.

"I thought he was brilliant," Gallacher said. "He spoke for half an hour and then we sort of asked him some questions and he was very candid and very open. There's bits that I definitely would take away from it, not just as a team aspect, but for progression going forward.

"I kind of knew he was (a confident person) anyway, but to hear him talking you can see why the players respected him so much. You can see his sort of passion for the game and how much he loves football and how much he loves the strategy and the game.

"He misses it a bit, he said, but, you know, an absolute legend in my eyes."

McGinley gives idea of pairings for Ryder Cup

Paul McGinley has hinted at his possible pairings

Paul McGinley has hinted at his possible pairings

European captain Paul McGinley offered further hints about his possible pairings on the second day of official practice ahead of the 40th Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.

After sending his 12-man team out in four groups of three on Tuesday, McGinley reverted to three groups of four this morning, but with Rory McIlroy once more in the same group as Martin Kaymer and Victor Dubuisson again alongside Graeme McDowell.

Sunda World Sport understands US Open champion Kaymer is a likely partner for McIlroy in foursomes, while McDowell said on Tuesday he was keen to act as a mentor to rookie Dubuisson after the "dynamic" of his relationship with McIlroy had changed.

Ian Poulter and Justin Rose were also together again in the second group along with Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson, with Thomas Bjorn, Jamie Donaldson and Lee Westwood kept together and joined by Scotland's Stephen Gallacher.

US captain Tom Watson kept the group of Keegan Bradley, Phil Mickelson, Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler together, Bradley and Mickelson having won all three of their matches together at Medinah.

Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson, who also played together at Medinah, were playing alongside Zach Johnson and Hunter Mahan, while Jim Furyk, Patrick Reed, Matt Kuchar and Jordan Spieth made up the final group.

McDowell: Rory has outgrown me now

Alex Ferguson adressed Europe's Ryder Cup team on Tuesday evening

Alex Ferguson adressed Europe’s Ryder Cup team on Tuesday evening

Graeme McDowell has hinted he may not play with Rory McIlroy at this year’s Ryder Cup, but insists that has nothing to do with the personal issues between the duo.

The Irish duo of McDowell and McIlroy have been Ryder Cup partners in the past, but the senior man of the duo admits the pairing may not have the same spark as it did a few years ago.

While legal issues between the two have soured their relationship, McDowell insists any decision to split him up from McIlroy will be made on sporting grounds.

"Our personal issues have been well documented the last couple years and I believe that we've both come out of the other end of that probably better friends than we were going into it," McDowell told his pre-event press conference on Tuesday.

"So our personal issues are not a problem this weekend, that's a fact.

"I think tactically, Rory and I's golf dynamic has changed significantly from the first time we ever played together back in 2009 at the Seve Trophy, when perhaps the older brother/younger brother leadership role that maybe I had with him, that's changed.

"He's the world's number one player. He's a four-time major champion. The dynamic between him and I is changed forever.

"He would now be the leader of the two of us and perhaps the dynamic doesn't work as well as it did in the past.

"Perhaps I'm the kind of guy that needs that leadership role a little bit, who needs to feel like he is on at least on a level with the guy he's playing with.

"I've spoken to (captain Paul) McGinley about this as well because he felt like himself and (Padraig) Harrington were the same way.

"They gelled well as a partnership in their early days, but when Harrington became the star (winning three major titles), the dynamic changed from a tactical point of view. It just didn't work so well anymore.

"So I kind of feel that's kind of the way Rory and I are viewing this week."

The preparations for Europe's Ryder Cup team continued on Tuesday evening with a rousing team meeting that was fronted by words of encouragement from former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson.