Clarke remains on cloud nine
SINCE winning The Open at Sandwich in 2011, Darren Clarke's game has fallen off a cliff. But, having been appointed Europe's Ryder Cup captain, he is more concerned with the form of the 12 men who will have the opportunity to win the trophy for an unprecedented fourth time in succession next year.
Clarke admits that he is still on cloud nine over what he describes as the “highest honour” from the European Tour.
“The highest honour the European Tour can bestow on any of its members is the Ryder Cup captaincy,” said the 46-year-old. “So imagine my sense of joy, pride and in some ways relief when the call came through from Ryder Cup Ddrector Richard Hills inviting me to lead Europe into the 2016 match against the USA."
There had been growing momentum for either Thomas Bjorn or Miguel Angel Jimenez to get the nod, but in the end, Clarke proved to be a popular choice.
“The more I played in The Ryder Cup, the more I wanted to become captain and, to be honest, if I could have chosen where and when, then it would have been in America and now. I have thoroughly enjoyed playing there and I have always felt very welcome, so I am particularly delighted that everything I wanted has come to fruition.”
Clarke was speaking at Heathrow airport where, as a vice-captain to Jose María Olazabal, he returned with the team that produced the ‘Miracle of Medinah’ on Monday, October 1, 2012.
It will also be the location from where the Northern Irishman and his team will depart to defend the trophy against the United States at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota.
Clarke posed for his first official pictures with the newly-reconstituted Ryder Cup, which has had an additional golden band added just above its base since Europe’s triumph at Gleneagles last September, to accommodate the results of the matches going forward.
And Clarke knows what result he wants to see engraved on that gold band on October 2, 2016. “Europe has a chance to make history by winning the Ryder Cup for the fourth time in succession and I am absolutely thrilled to have that opportunity,” he said. “But, whatever happens, I will also do everything in my power to ensure the good name of the game and the true spirit of this incredible match is carried forward.
“What made this honour even more amazing is that Davis Love III has been elected American captain. We have been very good friends ever since I first started playing in America and I have the upmost respect for him as both a player and a person. It won’t stop me doing everything I possibly can to ensure the European team beats his, but whatever the result we will remain friends first and foremost.”
Love was the US captain at Medinah, when Europe fought back from 10-4 down at one point on the second day to claim the trophy in the most dramatic circumstances, and has been given the chance to set the record straight for America next year. It seems certain that he will lead a young team, featuring the likes of Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Daniel Berger and Harris English. Clarke is certain to have his work cut out.
Read our interview with Darren Clarke on gear, stats and how to get the most from your game - Click here
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