VIRGINIA WATER, England (AP) -- Darren Clarke was selected Wednesday as the captain of the European team for the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine after receiving overwhelming support from key players like Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter.
The European Tour announced its decision following a meeting of a five-man selection panel, which included the last three captains -- Colin Montgomerie, Jose Maria Olazabal and Paul McGinley.
Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain and Thomas Bjorn of Denmark were also candidates for the role but Clarke was the unanimous choice, Montgomerie said.
The top-ranked McIlroy and stalwarts of the European team like Poulter, Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell had given their backing to Clarke, who played on four winning teams in the Ryder Cup from 1997-2006 and was vice captain in 2010 and '12.
In 2006, Clarke helped Europe to a record-equaling 18?-9? victory over the United States at The K Club, just six weeks after his first wife, Heather, died.
"The Ryder Cup has been a massive part of my life and my career, so to have the chance to lead Europe next year is a huge honor," said Clarke, the first Northern Irishman to be given the captaincy. "I am lucky to have played and worked under some fantastic captains in my seven Ryder Cups to date, and I look forward to the challenge of trying to follow in their footsteps."
The European team is defending the cup after beating the U.S. 16?-11? at Gleneagles in September. The Americans have won the Ryder Cup only one time in the past seven tries.
The charismatic, cigar-chomping Clarke, who won the British Open in 2011, is a popular figure in the United States and seems suited to be Europe's captain for a Ryder Cup on American soil.
"He is also a popular figure among the players and has both the passion and knowledge to lead Europe in the quest for a record fourth consecutive Ryder Cup victory," said George O'Grady, chief executive of the European Tour.
O'Grady and David Howell, a member of the tour's players' committee, were also on the panel that met for about two hours on Wednesday at the tour's headquarters at The Wentworth Club.
The Associated Press reported Monday that Davis Love III would be the captain of the U.S. team. He is to be introduced on Feb. 24. Love and Clarke are close friends.