By Ian Graham
ANTRIM, Northern Ireland (Reuters) - Northern Irishman Darren Clarke would love to lead Europe at next year's Ryder Cup but he would also be more than happy to serve as a vice-captain again if the decision goes against him.
A successor to Paul McGinley could be announced next Wednesday, the European Tour told Reuters this week. Clarke and Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez lead the chase for the coveted role.
Clarke is the bookmakers' out and out favorite for the job, with Jimenez appearing to be his only rival, but the 2011 British Open champion said he would have no problem assisting again, a role he played in European victories in 2010 and 2012.
"Of course I would do anything, a European victory in the Ryder Cup is obviously hugely important," Clarke told reporters at the County Antrim golf school which carries his name and where he regularly coaches students.
Clarke, who was a member of five consecutive European teams from 1997 and memorably helped Europe to victory in 2006 just weeks after the death of his wife, has already won the backing of world number one Rory McIlroy.
McIlroy said last month that his fellow Northern Irishman would be a perfect fit for captaincy in the United States where he is a very popular figure.
A five man selection panel - which includes McGinley and former captains Jose Maria Olazabal and Colin Montgomerie - will meet on February 18 to decide on the skipper for the 2016 clash at the Hazeltine National Golf Club in Minnesota.
"I would love to do it, but Miguel would love to as well. It's up to those guys (the selection panel) to decide. It's not up to me, it's out of my control so I'm just getting on with my game," said Clarke.
Jimenez, 51, is ranked 45 and a regular on the European Tour where he took a one-stroke lead at the halfway stage of the Thailand Classic on Friday. Clarke, 46, is a less regular figure on the circuit and ranked over 400 places below the Spaniard.
While captaining Europe, who have won the biennial team event in eight of the last 10 editions, would be a high point in his career, Clarke said it would not mark the end of his playing days.
"No, no, I want to play a lot more yet," he said.
(Editing by Padraic Halpin/Alan Baldwin)