(Adds McIlroy quotes)
* Clarke exit leaves way clear for Montgomerie and McGinley
* This was no spur-of-moment decision, says Northern Irishman
By Tony Jimenez
ABU DHABI, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Former British Open golf champion Darren Clarke has pulled out of the race to succeed Spaniard Jose Maria Olazabal as Europe’s Ryder Cup captain.
“I have been to see (Players Committee chairman) Thomas Bjorn and formally informed him I do not want to be considered for the Ryder Cup captaincy in 2014,” the Northern Irishman told reporters on Tuesday.
“It was not a spur-of-the-moment decision. I have been agonising over what to do since I showed a few glimpses of my old form in Thailand and Australia at the end of last year.”
Clarke’s withdrawal leaves the way clear for a two-horse race between former skipper Colin Montgomerie and Ireland’s Paul McGinley.
The Players Committee meet in Abu Dhabi later on Tuesday and are expected to announce the new Ryder Cup captain.
Clarke, the 2011 British Open champion, was also a front-runner for the job until his odds lengthened last week when he hinted he wanted another shot at playing in the team he served five times between 1997-2006.
World number one Rory McIlroy re-iterated on Tuesday his plea for McGinley to be given the job for the 2014 edition of the biennial team event at Gleneagles, Scotland.
”I have a very strong opinion about this,“ said the 23-year-old Northern Irishman. ”I really think Paul deserves it.
”He has been a great player and a great personality for the European Tour over the years. I also played under him at the Seve Trophy in 2009 and I thought he did a great job.
“From all the captains I’ve played under, I think he was the best.”
McIlroy seemed to be perturbed that several members of the 2012 Ryder Cup team were not on the Players Committee that decides the new skipper.
“Myself, Ian Poulter, Luke Donald and Justin Rose have all voiced their opinion that they want Paul,” he said.
“I would like to think our opinions are valuable to them and they make the decision based on that. I‘m not even sure there is anyone sitting on the Players Committee who is even going to make the Ryder Cup team.”
Olazabal led Europe to a remarkable comeback victory over the United States at the 2012 Ryder Cup in Illinois. (Editing by Pritha Sarkar and Clare Fallon)