European captain Darren Clarke expects honesty, expert opinion and the occasional uncomfortable truth from Thomas Bjorn, Padraig Harrington and Paul Lawrie after naming them as three of his five vice-captains for this year’s Ryder Cup.
Bjorn performed the same role alongside Clarke in 2010 and 2012, as well as for Bernhard Langer in 2004, while Harrington was one of five vice-captains to Paul McGinley at Gleneagles in 2014.
Former Open champion Lawrie will make his debut as part of the backroom staff at Hazeltine as Europe seek an unprecedented fourth straight victory and ninth in the last 11 biennial contests.
Clarke hopes to name his final two vice-captains around the time of the Open Championship in July, with 2012 captain Jose Maria Olazabal, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter understood to be in the frame.
“Having been there, you want honesty from your vice-captains,” Clarke told a press conference.
“You want them to tell you exactly what they are thinking.
“They are three guys I’ve known for almost my entire career on Tour, three good friends, three guys who won’t be afraid to tell me, sometimes, what I don’t want to hear.
“Obviously I wouldn’t have asked the guys to be part of the whole team unless I trusted their judgement. These are three fantastic players with seriously, seriously good golfing careers. They know what they are looking at whenever they see guys performing in the Ryder Cup. They have all played before under that extreme pressure.
“They know whether they are looking at guys who are maybe a little bit off-form or guys that are a little bit nervous. And because I can’t be everywhere at one time, they are my eyes and ears.
“With the level of trust that I do have in these three, I’ve got no worries whatsoever that I’m going to have some fantastic information and indeed advice and support coming back in my direction.”
Clarke said he waited as long as possible to see if the trio had a chance to qualify for the team for “fear of insulting them”, but made it official with all three outside the top 90 on the European points list.
“The conversation took place quite a while ago to be fair,” Lawrie said.
“I had been struggling a little bit with my foot and not being 100 per cent fit for a long time.
“I didn’t feel I could make the team to be fair, so I didn’t see it as a problem at all. I was hugely honoured to be asked by Darren. I’ve known him a long time and for him to want me on his backroom team was brilliant for me.”
Harrington added: “Darren waited a decent amount of time, and a very polite amount of time, to confirm that I wouldn’t be in the team, which was very nice of him.
“All of us dream of playing great golf every week we play and we think that tomorrow we’re going to win and make teams. But the reality is a little clearer than that and now the time is pretty clear that we’re set for vice-captains rather than anything else.”
Bjorn, who made his Ryder Cup debut alongside Clarke in 1997, added: “It’s going to be interesting. I’ve done it three times before, but I think this is the first time the captain is one of my best friends and I can tell the truth, which I’m quite looking forward to!
“It’s always a position where you’re there for the captain and for 12 players, and you’ve got to go in with that attitude. It’s not about anybody but getting those 12 players to perform as well as they can.”