Darren Clarke looks set to make his Champions Tour debut at the 2018 Dick Sporting Goods Open at Endicott, New York. The 2011 Open Champion and 2016 Ryder Cup Captain will turn 50 on August 14th which is two days prior the $US 2.05m event to be staged on the En-Joie Golf Course located in upstate New York and some 200 miles from New York City.
The PGA Tour highlighted Clarke’s eligibility to compete on the Tour in announcing the 2018 Champions Tour schedule and the new Champions Tour season will feature 27 official tournaments and two “Challenge Season” events.
The 24-event ‘Regular Season’ will again give way to the third annual Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs, which will be used to determine the season-long Charles Schwab Cup champion. The Tour will contest events in three countries and 20 states, with total prize money of $US 56.6 million.
Two new events have been added that Clarke will no doubt consider contesting and they are The Ally Challenge marking the PGA TOUR’s return to Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club in Grand Blanc, Michigan, the week of September 10-16, and the Sanford International contested the following week (September 17-23) at Minnehaha Country Club in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Joining Clarke as a 2018 Champions Tour ‘rookie’ will be four other PGA Tour winners who will also turn 50 in 2018, Chris DiMarco, Dudley Hart, Robert Gamez and Brent Geiberger.
Unfortunately, Clarke will miss out on the five major championships that will kick off with the Regions Tradition, which returns to Greystone Golf & Country Club in Birmingham, Alabama the week of May 14-20. The KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship will be contested the following week at Harbor Shores Golf Club in Benton Harbor, Michigan for the fourth time in the last seven years.
The final three major championships of 2018 will again be held during a five-week stretch in the summer, beginning with the U.S. Senior Open at The Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs, Colorado the week of June 25-July 1. The Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship will move to Illinois for the first time the week of July 9-15, with Exmoor Country Club outside of Chicago set to host the year’s fourth major.
Then there is the Senior Open Championship presented by Rolex that will held on the Old Course at St. Andrews for the first time from July 23-29. The Old Course has hosted The Open Championship 29 times, including in 2015 when Zach Johnson earned his second major championship title but never The Senior Open.
A big question is whether Clarke can halt the domination of 2004 European Ryder Cup Captain, Bernhard Langer.
In 2016, Langer claimed an unprecedented fourth Charles Schwab Cup title after winning four events that season, and the prolific-winning German enters this week’s Charles Schwab Cup Championship at No. 1 in the standings, thanks to seven victories, including three major championship titles in 2017.