Paris – Colin Montgomerie and Paul McGinley are the favourites for the European Ryder Cup captaincy which will be decided by the 15-strong Tournament Players Committee meeting in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.
The succession to Jose Maria Olazabal, who skippered the Miracle in Medinah victory over the United States in September, had been seen until recently as a straight contest between McGinley and fellow Irishman Darren Clarke.
But all that changed when the Americans, still shellshocked from the final day collapse in Chicago, brought back golfing legend Tom Watson, nearly 20 years after he was captain for the first time.
The choice of Watson for Gleneagles 2014 took many by surprise, but it was largely applauded as a masterstroke given his stature in the game, especially in Scotland where he is adored for his British Open wins.
Clarke was among those who started posing the question of whether, given the popularity of Watson, it would be worthwhile to widen the field with the name of 2010 European captain Montgomerie coming into the picture.
The 44-year-old Ulsterman went even further at the Volvo Golf Champions Trophy in South Africa at the weekend when he remarkably appeared to all but rule himself out of contention.
“As much as I would dearly love to be captain, this may not be my time,” the 2011 British Open winner said.
“I'm still wrestling with it. It's a tough one for me, but to be honest I want to play golf.”
“Whenever I was initially mentioned (as captain) I wasn't playing very well,” said Clarke.
“But I played much better at the end of last year and have been thinking long and hard about it all over the Christmas break.
“I won one of the biggest prizes in golf by winning The Open and I am exempt for another three years (in the States).
“If I was given the opportunity to do the captaincy I'd effectively be throwing two of those years away.”
Montgomerie, who has enjoyed the greatest successes of his career in The Ryder Cup, both as a player and a captain, has insisted he is not openly campaigning to be given the post again, this time in his native Scotland.
But if asked, then he has made it clear he would be delighted to accept.
“I've never canvassed, as I didn't last time. I've not spoken to anybody about this,” he said.
“But I am excited and honoured and very flattered really that my name's been put in the frame and that possibly I'll be nominated.
“As I've said before and if asked at the meeting next Tuesday to do the job again I would accept. Of course, I would.”
As for McGinley, the player who sunk the winning putt for Europe in the 2002 Ryder Cup at The Belfry, and who has been vice-captain in the last two Ryder Cups, has had little to say.
But his chances were considerably boosted by world No.1 Rory McIlroy, who tweeted “RC captaincy should be a 1 time thing... Everybody deserving gets their chance and moves on... Would love to play under Paul McGinley in '14.”
Meanwhile the whole process of selecting a Ryder Cup captain for Europe has come under fire with some, such as former captains Bernard Gallacher and Ian Woosnam, saying changes were needed.
Woosnam, who was in charge at the K-Club in Ireland in 2006, used his Twitter feed to call for a radical overhaul of the decision-making process.
The Welshman's idea is for a committee of past captains to decide. Under the current set-up he feels there are “too many players on the committee wanting the job”. Woosnam does not just mean for 2014 but for the years ahead. – Sapa-AFP