01/14/2013 09:55 EST | Updated 03/16/2013 05:12 EDT

Paul McGinley appears to be front-runner for European Ryder Cup captaincy; endorsed by McIlroy

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates - Paul McGinley appears to be the front-runner to become Europe's Ryder Cup captain for 2014, though he may face a late challenge from former captain Colin Montgomerie.

McGinley has received a timely endorsement from top-ranked Rory McIlroy, who tweeted his support for the 46-year-old Irishman.

"RC captaincy should be a 1 time thing... Everybody deserving gets their chance and moves on... Would love to play under Paul McGinley in '14," McIlroy tweeted late Sunday.

While he doesn't have the success on the golf course of Montgomerie, McGinley clearly has the credentials. He has been on three winning Ryder Cup teams and was vice captain for Europe in 2010 and for its improbable comeback win last year.

Montgomerie, a longshot only a few weeks ago, has indicated he would be eager to take on the post a day before the European Tour's tournament committee votes in Abu Dhabi. Montgomerie's chances improved last week after Darren Clarke all but took himself out of the race.

"Obviously, it would be a dream come true if I could be seen to be captain at home in Scotland," Montgomerie said in South Africa, where he played at the Volvo Champions. "It will be a great honour. It seemed to be between Darren and Paul and now my name seems to be mentioned an awful lot, so we will see."

Clarke and McGinley have long been the two main candidates to replace Jose Maria Olazabal.

But Clarke, the 2011 British Open Champion, said this week in South Africa that he was wary of taking on the commitment necessary to be the next captain.

"I am exempt for another three years (for major events) and, if I was given the opportunity to do the captaincy, I'd effectively be throwing two of those years away," Clarke said.

Montgomerie said he could sympathize with Clarke's dilemma.

"I can fully understand where Darren is coming from, especially given the exemptions he still has into the majors as you want to use them when you can still play," he said. "Because we're close friends he knows it took a year and a half out of my career. If you come back after a year and a half out you might not be able to use those exemptions to the same potential."

The Americans last month picked Tom Watson to lead its team at the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles. Watson will be 65 when the event starts, making him by far the oldest man to fill the role and the first repeat captain for the United States since 1987. But he's also the last American to lead the team to victory on the road in 1993, and he knows how to win in the blustery Scottish weather.

The Europeans have insisted the choice of Watson won't influence whom they pick.

"As a committee voting for a new European captain we don't have to react to Tom Watson's appointment as Europe's record in past years is pretty impressive," Thomas Bjorn, the longtime member of the European Tournament Players Committee, said last week in South Africa.

Still, Bjorn acknowledged that Watson has the potential to overshadow anyone Europe chooses.

"If Tom Watson is in the room or he's in a press conference, he will clearly have the edge and that is different compared to someone who has competed in your own generation," Bjorn said. "But then Tom Watson deserves that right and that respect for everyone to listen to what he says. But as far as needing to be seen appointing someone to match Tom Watson, that will not happen."