By Dave Tindall. Last Updated: 14/01/13 1:32pm
In Abu Dhabi this week, a 15-man committee will meet to choose and unveil Europe's Ryder Captain for the 2014 match at Gleneagles.
Initially thought of as a straight shootout between Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley, there's been a late twist with growing whispers for the re-appointment of 2010 winning captain Colin Montgomerie.
Here we assess the three leading candidates and also look at what the players are saying:
Paul McGinley: Holed the winning putt in Europe's victory in 2002
Paul McGinley: The 46-year-old Dubliner has played in three winning Ryder Cups and provided one of the competition's iconic moments when holing the winning putt in the 2002 match at The Belfry. McGinley has been a highly-regarded assistant captain at the last two Ryder Cups and has shown his strong organisational skills and tactical shrewdness as winning captain of the Great Britain and Ireland captain at the last two Seve Trophy matches. An extremely popular figure on Tour, McGinley's passion for the Ryder Cup is obvious. The downside? His relative lack of clout as a player. Tom Watson has more Open wins (five) than McGinley has European Tour titles (four). Would he be overshadowed by Watson's aura.
Darren Clarke: Played in five Ryder Cups
Darren Clarke: Unlike McGinley and, indeed, Colin Montgomerie, Clarke has a major in the bag having captured the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St George's. The 44-year-old has played in five Ryder Cups and arguably provided its most emotional moment after helping Europe to victory at the K Club in Ireland (he won all three of his matches) just six weeks after his wife Heather had lost her battle with cancer. Twice an assistant captain, Clarke's big personality means he wouldn't be overshadowed by the iconic Watson. One slight skeleton in the cupboard is the critical remarks he made about the 2014 host course and there's also a wide-held belief that he'd be the best candidate for 2016 given his popularity in America. He's also indicated that he still wants to try and qualify for 2014 as a player.
Colin Montgomerie: Skippered Europe to victory at Celtic Manor in 2010
Colin Montgomerie: Recent policy is that the Ryder Cup captain's job is a one-stop deal but the Americans have broken with that idea by appointing Tom Watson (winning US captain back in 1993), so why shouldn't Europe? Monty successfully captained Europe to victory at Celtic Manor in 2010 and, of course, what better place to give it another go than in his native Scotland. Although he's tried to diplomatically duck the question, it's obvious that Monty would relish the chance to be captain again and sources close to the Montgomerie camp believe he's now in the box seat to get the job.
What the players say:
Rory McIlroy: "I always thought Clarkey would be a better captain in the US. If it was up to me I would like to see McGinley as Ryder Cup captain in 2014 and then Clarkey in 2016 - I think that would work very well."
Lee Westwood: "Darren is a major champion, a very good public speaker which has to be taken into account. Tactically very astute. Darren has a lot of things going for him. Paul is good in the team room and makes a great vice-captain. He's done a good job with the Vivendi (Seve) Trophy. Paul has played three Ryder Cups, Darren has played five and got a major championship and won a lot more tournaments than Paul. You have to have a criteria somewhere and I think Darren just edges it for me."
Luke Donald: "I do believe that if Paul doesn't get it this year, he probably won't get it at all, whereas, I feel like Darren will have other opportunities. From a personal point of view, and probably because I have spoken a little bit more to Paul, I find him a little bit more outgoing with me. I would support McGinley as he's been very diligent, very enthusiastic and whenever I have been around him I have enjoyed it. He just has a really good team vibe. He seems to think about the small things. That's just what I've noticed."
Graeme McDowell: "I think Darren would make for a great captain in America as they love him over there. His personality suits America and they see him as the cigar-smoking, Guinness-drinking, nice guy that he is."
Peter Hanson: "One guy that did a big, big job in the backroom (in 2012) was Paul McGinley. Paul did a fantastic job, He knows everything about all the previous Ryder Cups with all the records. He is really the guy that in the backroom really helped out, so I would love to see Paul be a captain."
Henrik Stenson: "We all know Monty's passion for the Ryder Cup and the effort he put into the captaincy in 2010 - and I am sure he would do the same and maybe more this time around. So that might be a possible scenario and we will have to wait to see what the Committee thinks."
Ian Poulter insists he won't be relying on a captain's pick to make Europe's team for the Ryder Cup.
Sam Torrance believes European captain Paul McGinley will leave “no stone unturned” as he bids to retain the Ryder Cup.
Paul McGinley believes Martin Kaymer will make an ideal member of his Ryder Cup team at Gleneagles later this year.