DARREN CLARKE is the players' choice to become the next European Ryder Cup captain as Rory McIlroy, Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood backed the Northern Irishman.
Paul McGinley is being lavished in praise following his superb captaincy at Gleneagles which saw Europe defeat the United States 11.5-16.5, but the golf world is already contemplating who should get the call-up to steer the ship at Hazeltine in 2016.
"There would be no better candidate from the European side," said McIlroy. "He is absolutely loved over there. He would be just as well received in the United States as probably the United States captain.
"So, it can only be an advantage for the European team if Darren was to lead us out," said the World No.1.
Montgomerie added: "I think he's the bookies' favourite, if there is one. Provided he feels he isn't capable of playing and adding to the team in a playing performance.
"This is the problem with Thomas Bjorn, with Lee Westwood, with Padraig Harrington as well – are they ready to say they're not going to play again? Because after you've captained it's very rare to come back as a player.
"Darren's favourite right now but we will have a think after the next few months and come up with the best candidate."
Clarke was a vice-captain in 2010 and 2012 and his experience of playing in six Ryder Cups, and winning four, stands him in good stead.
“I would love to be at some stage. But that’s up to the committee to decide,” Clarke told Sky Sports.
“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.”
Westwood added: "It's about the right time in Darren's career to take up the captaincy. He is very popular in the United States and I think he would make a good captain."
A potential stumbling block is the rift between Clarke and McGinley, as the most-recent captain will be heavily involved in the decision-making process. Clarke initially backed McGinley to captain Europe at Gleneagles before openly backing Montgomerie.
"I'm going to be very professional in my input," said McGinley.