By Daniel Etchells

Darren Clarke has been named Europe's captain for the 2016 Ryder Cup ©Getty ImagesNorthern Ireland's Darren Clarke has been named Europe's captain for the 2016 Ryder Cup as the team bids to secure an unprecedented fourth consecutive crown.

A five-man selection panel, which included last year's winning captain Paul McGinley of Ireland, chose the 46-year-old to lead the continent at the Hazeltine National Golf Club in Minnesota ahead of Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez and Denmark's Thomas Bjorn.

Recent skippers Colin Montgomerie of Scotland and Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain were also part of the panel, along with European Tour chief executive George O'Grady and former Ryder Cup player David Howell.

The quintet met at Wentworth Club this morning, and decided after two-and-a-half hours on Clarke, who has won the Ryder Cup four times as a player and twice as a non-playing vice-captain.

"I am naturally extremely proud to be selected as European Ryder Cup captain for 2016," said Clarke, who has won 11.5 points from his 20 matches at the tournament. 

"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 honour."

The 2011 British Open champion has lost just once in the seven times he has been involved in the Ryder Cup, when the United States won on home soil at Brookline in 1999.

Darren Clarke (left) first tasted Ryder Cup success as a player in 1997 ©Getty ImagesDarren Clarke (left) first tasted Ryder Cup success as a player in 1997 ©Getty Images

Clarke's victories as a player came under the captaincy of Spain's Seve Ballesteros in 1997, Scotland's Sam Torrance in 2002, Germany's Bernhard Langer in 2004, and Wales' Ian Woosnam in 2006, before he helped Montgomerie and Olazabal achieve success in 2010 and 2012 respectively.

"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 and help Europe to a fourth consecutive Ryder Cup victory at Hazeltine next year," added Clarke, who was in the running for the 2014 captaincy before withdrawing to concentrate on his own game.  

Montgomerie said the decision to appoint Clarke had been unanimous, despite main rival Jiménez's experience of assisting the European team on three occasions during his long career.   

"We have selected a captain that I am convinced will retain the Ryder Cup and bring it home," the Scot told Sky Sports News.

"It's an unenviable task; America want it back badly and he will have all our support."

Bjorn, who was seen as an outsider for the role, was part of last year's successful European team that won by five points at Gleneagles in Scotland - his third success in as many Ryder Cup appearances. 

Davis Love III is expected to be confirmed as captain of the US Ryder Cup team on February 24, four years after he led the side at Medinah which surrendered a 10-6 lead going into the final day's singles to lose 14½-13½.

Europe have won three successive Ryder Cups, as they did between 2002 and 2006, and will be looking to extend that run to four for the first-time ever next year. 

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