Colin Montgomerie rivals Paul McGinley for Ryder Cup captaincy

The apparent inevitability of Paul McGinley being named as Europe's 2014 Ryder Cup captain this week has been tempered by a late surge for the post by Colin Montgomerie.

A meeting of the European Tour's 15-man tournament committee in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday evening was expected to confirm McGinley as the successor to José María Olazábal when the event takes place at Gleneagles. Yet it has now emerged that Montgomerie's camp are hopeful of the man who led Europe to victory in 2010 being handed what would be a controversial second captaincy stint.

That confidence is sufficient for some bookmakers to install Montgomerie as the favourite to take over at Gleneagles, amid apparent concern that McGinley lacks the profile, playing success and presence to challenge a United States side captained by Tom Watson. On Monday evening, all leading European Tour sources would confirm is that the battle between the Dubliner and Montgomerie is "very close". Darren Clarke, once the frontrunner for the position, has seemingly withdrawn his candidature in the hope of playing at Gleneagles and taking the captaincy in 2016.

Montgomerie said: "Obviously it would be a dream come true if I could be seen to be captain at home in Scotland. It will be a great honour. It seemed to be between Darren and Paul and now my name seems to be mentioned an awful lot."

One of many intriguing subplots to what has developed into a fascinating story is the apparent willingness of Rory McIlroy, the world's top-ranked player, to push McGinley over the line.

On Sunday evening, unprompted, McIlroy used his Twitter account to suggest Montgomerie should not be afforded a second captaincy opportunity. He endorsed such sentiment on Monday.

"I do strongly believe in captaincy being a one-hit deal," the Northern Irishman said. "I feel everyone deserving should get their chance. I played under Paul at the Seve Trophy in 2009 and he did an unbelievable job. Under any captain I played he's been the best. He brought so much to the team room. You know, I personally don't feel like Monty has anything to gain by this. Because if we go to Gleneagles and lose, he's already a winning Ryder Cup captain. As I said I'm fully behind Paul and he should get the job."

Pressed on what makes McGinley a stand-out choice, McIlroy said: "It's the small details. He doesn't leave any stone unturned. He gives confidence to the team room. I just had a great experience playing under him. He's been a vice-captain in the two Ryder Cups I've played in and he's brought a lot to the table, a lot of ideas. I just think he'd make a really good captain."

Ian Poulter and Luke Donald, likewise, have publicly stated a preference for McGinley over Montgomerie. In short, it is perfectly easy to infer that high-profile members of the 2014 team would be irked if Montgomerie is chosen as captain.

On Twitter Donald questioned whether Clarke had dropped out of contention and added: "If so probably the correct decision as he still has a chance to make team and would make a great captain on US soil in 2016. I hope Paul McGinley gets his chance, he's been an amazing vice-captain and deserves an opportunity."

Poulter replied to Donald's tweet by stating: "Darren has taken his name out of the running for Ryder Cup captaincy. It would be fantastic to have Paul McGinley as the 2014 captain."

The captaincy's latest twist occurred on the day McIlroy's lucrative and widely reported sponsorship deal with Nike was confirmed in the Emirates. Financial detail of the agreement has not been revealed but it is believed it may be worth a potential $125m (£78m) over five years rather than the $250m, 10-year structure that had been intimated.

"I don't play golf for the money – I am well past that," McIlroy told a press conference in Abu Dhabi. "I'm a major champion and world No1, which I have always dreamed of being, and feel this is a company that can help me sustain that and win even more major titles. At the end of 2013, if I have not won another major I will be disappointed."

Powered by article was written by Ewan Murray in Abu Dhabi, for The Guardian on Monday 14th January 2013 20.35 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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