After missing the cut the past two weeks at the DDF Irish Open at Ballyliffin and the Scottish Open, Darren Clarke is hoping for a big finish to his European Tour season as he tees it up at 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie before heading stateside to join the Champions Tour.
The 2011 Open Champion will tee it up this week in what will be his last European Tour event of the year as the Portrush man turns 50 on August 14th and will make his debut on the senior circuit at the August 24th commencing Boeing Classic in Seattle on the Champions Tour.
Clarke departs for the senior ranks having made his European Tour debut as 21-year old in the 1990 Irish Open at Portmarnock and this week tees-up in his 572nd Tour event having made the halfway cut in 424 events. Clarke has won on 14 occasions, none more special than the 2011 Open Championship and he’s earned prize-money of Euro 20.5m on the European Tour alone.
But before this new chapter in his career, Dungannon-born Clarke would dearly love to challenge for another Claret Jug.
“I haven’t played an awful lot of golf of late and it was nice to have true links course events like Ballyliffin and Gullane building up to Carnoustie this week.”
This week’s Open is only Clarke’s eight European Tour event this season and the good news he’s at least made the halfway cut in three whereas he teed-up in a dozen events last year and never played four days in any. While Clarke’s career will always be tied to Royal St. George’s, he says Carnoustie is the toughest test of all courses on the Open rota.
“Carnoustie is hard, the hardest of the lot and while I played there in the ’99 Open (T30th) and in 2007 when Padraig won (Missed Cut), and played plenty of Dunhill Links rounds at Carnoustie, it is hard and the hardest of the lot. I think I shot 64 one time in the Dunhill and while it is a brilliant golf course, it’s difficult.”
“It will be a plus for the guys who played the Irish and Scottish heading to Carnoustie as Carnoustie is just as firm and hard as the courses have been these two weeks already.”
“Obviously, I teed it up wanting to play well and get some momentum but clearly my lack of competitive golf kills me a little bit at the moment as I made so many stupid mistakes last week and in Ballyliffin, so we’ll see.
Clarke indicated while becoming a ‘rookie’ on the US Champions Tour he may play the odd European Tour event in future.
“It will be a full schedule and it’s going to be interesting being a rookie again,” he smiled. “The thing is also I have been 60/70 yards behind these young fellas out here for a long time so I need a change and I am looking forward to getting out there and playing again with all the guys I grew-up with when I first came out onto the European Tour.”