Clarke ready to skipper Europe at World Champions Cup

Ronan MacNamara
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Darren Clarke (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Ronan MacNamara

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2011 Open champion Darren Clarke feels the World Champions Cup will only thrive and would be a huge hit if it was staged in Europe as he looks to captain the continent to victory in its inaugural edition this week in the Concession Golf Club, Florida.

Clarke will be a playing captain this week and he will lead a team of former Ryder Cup players, Collin Montgomerie, Bernhard Langer, Miguel Ángel Jimenez and Robert Karlsson while Senior Open champion Alex Cejka completes the lineup.

Clarke feels the competition presents a great opportunity to take the PGA Tour Champions around the world and there would be a big appetite for hosting it in Europe.

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“I think for us to be able to travel around the world and showcase, as Monty says, showcase the Champions Tour. You know, we, our tour is ultra-competitive. Some people don’t really get that, they think we’re out there, you know, older guys over 50, but make no mistake, as soon as the first tee shot in the tournament comes around, we’re back to being seriously competitive professional golfers.

“We may not be quite as maybe hot headed as we used to be, but we’re still, that inner desire of what we want to do and want to compete, that never leaves us and you’re going to see that this week from all the guys, because I can guarantee you each one of the members of each team, they’re desperate to win this week. It’s not just a pitch up and play. They want to win, we all want to win. That’s in our nature, that’s what we’ve done for X amount of years playing professional golf. That ain’t going to change.

“Certainly with the appetite Europe has had for the Ryder Cup, the Solheim Cup, that sort of stuff, to have this over in Europe at some stage, the support that we would get over there would be phenomenal as well. Hopefully that’s down the line at some stage.”

Clarke played in five Ryder Cups as a player, winning five, before captaining Europe in 2016 at Hazeltine where his charges were well beaten by USA. The Dungannon man hopes captaining Europe this week can bring back the passion he had when he was competing in the Ryder Cup.

“It’s a huge honour to be captain of this European team. We’ve known each other obviously for a very, very long time. We’ve played on teams together for a long time, so to be part of this group of guys is very exciting.

“I think for the inaugural World Champions Cup, the event itself is going to bring back all those juices that we’ve had from playing Ryder Cups, Seve Trophies, all sorts of stuff. It’s going to be exciting.

“Nobody really knows what it’s going to be like because we’ve got so many points to play for. I think there’s 162. I think that’s what our statistician Robert told me earlier, so if it’s wrong, blame him.

“There’s so many points, it’s going to be so volatile. So it’s going to be so exciting to actually get out there. We’ve got a little bit of wind forecast for the golf course which is going to make it even more challenging.

“I think all in all we’re all excited and looking forward to getting out there and competing and just getting those — this isn’t rock up and play with old pals sort of stuff against the other team. We’re here to try and win.”

G4D Open champion, Brendan Lawlor, is representing Ireland in the All Abilities World Champions Cup as he plays on US soil for the first time.

“Very lucky to be an ambassador with ISPS Handa the last four years. They’ve definitely changed my life financially and with golf, as well. They support many things, not just golf, wheelchair basketball, and really believe in the power sport. Juan Postigo also is an ambassador, as well, so there’s a lot of us growing the game in different sectors, and it’s truly inspiring to be with such great company.”

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