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Irish Open 2015: Northern Ireland's Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke player profile

By Peter Hutcheon

Published 26/05/2015

VIRGINIA WATER, ENGLAND - MAY 22: Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland tees off on the 3rd hole during day 2 of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth on May 22, 2015 in Virginia Water, England. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
VIRGINIA WATER, ENGLAND - MAY 22: Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland tees off on the 3rd hole during day 2 of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth on May 22, 2015 in Virginia Water, England. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

He would not be Darren Clarke if he did not talk up his chances of playing his way onto his own Ryder Cup team.

Alas his days as a leading European player are pretty much behind him and such thoughts should be banished from his mind as he prepares for the other challenges next year’s Ryder Cup at Hazeltine present to him as captain.

Victory there may be regarded as the pinnacle of his career by some, though one suspects he personally will always treasure his Open Championship victory at Royal St George’s more highly than anything he did in the colours of Europe.

There will always be a tinge of regret at not winning an Irish Open. He talks often of one of his proudest moments being his victory at the K Club in Kildare in 2001. That, though, was a European Open – a subtle but important difference.

He could always put that right at Royal County Down next week but given his form over the last couple of years, that would be quite a leap of faith.

What a victory it would be, though, and perhaps a vindication of the decision he made back in 2005 at Carton House when he, on principle, opted not to take advantage of a good lie in heavy rough afforded by an over enthusiastic fan and ended up losing out on the coveted title to Thomas Bjorn.

It has been decisions like those which have made Clarke immensely popular with both players and fans alike over the years. That, and his stellar playing record in the Ryder Cup, are what have propelled him to the captaincy.

He remains a straight talker never afraid to air his opinion which will undoubtedly be interesting to watch in the heat of a Ryder Cup battle next year.

There is also his genuine sense of hospitality and generosity, traits seen at their best as he acted as the unofficial host of the 2012 Irish Open at Royal Portrush, which was by any stretch of the imagination, a supreme triumph for all concerned.

Moving back to settle with his family in Northern Ireland has suited him. And he has become a perfect ambassador for the country as well as the game around the world.

Paul McGinley has set the bar extremely high for the standards expected of Ryder Cup captains and it would be difficult for anyone to live up to the meticulous preparations he put in place last year.

And it is unfortunate that relations between the two men are not what they once were. Clarke will no doubt speak to McGinley to get his thoughts on captaincy though ultimately he will do it his way.

Clarke revelled in his role as the unofficial tournament host when the Irish Open came to Royal Portrush three years ago.

CORK, IRELAND - JUNE 22: Mikko Ilonen of Finland celebrates with the winners trophy after the final round of the Irish Open at the Fota Island Resort on June 22, 2014 in Cork, Ireland. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
CORK, IRELAND - JUNE 22: Mikko Ilonen of Finland celebrates with the winners trophy after the final round of the Irish Open at the Fota Island Resort on June 22, 2014 in Cork, Ireland. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
MAYNOOTH, IRELAND - JUNE 30: Paul Casey of England celebrates his eagle putt on the 18th green during the final round of the Irish Open at Carton House Golf Club on June 30, 2013 in Maynooth, Ireland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 01: Jamie Donaldson of Wales hugs his caddie Craig Connelly of Scotland after he had holed a birdie putt at the 18th hole to secure his first European Tour win during the final round of the 2012 Irish Open held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 1, 2012 in Portrush, Northern Ireland. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
KILLARNEY, IRELAND - JULY 31: Simon Dyson of England kisses the trophy after winning the Discover Ireland Irish Open held at Killarney Golf and Fishing Club on July 31, 2011 in Killarney, Ireland. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
KILLARNEY, IRELAND - AUGUST 01: Ross Fisher of England poses with the trophy and his wife Jo and daughter Eve after victory during the final round of the 3 Irish Open at Killarney Golf and Fishing Club on August 1, 2010 in Killarney, Ireland. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
BALTRAY, IRELAND - MAY 17: Shane Lowry of Ireland celebrates after winning on the third play-off hole during the final round of The 3 Irish Open at County Louth Golf Club on May 17, 2009 in Baltray, Ireland. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
LIMERICK, IRELAND - MAY 18: Richard Finch of England celebrates the final round of the Irish Open at Adare Manor on May 18, 2008 in Limerick, Ireland. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
LIMERICK, IRELAND - MAY 20: Padraig Harrington of Ireland with son Patrick and wife Caroline on the 18th green after the final round of the Irish Open on May 20, 2007 at the Adare Manor Hotel and Golf Resort in Limerick, Ireland (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
KILDARE, IRELAND - MAY 22: Thomas Bjorn of Denmark celebrates on the 18th green after winning the Nissan Irish Open on The Montgomerie Course at Carton House Golf Club on May 22, 2006 in Kildare, Ireland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
MAYNOOTH, IRELAND - MAY 22: Stephen Dodd of Wales tees off on the 16th hole during the final round of the Nissan Irish Open on The Montgomerie Course at Carton House Golf Club on May 22, 2005 in Maynooth, Ireland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
BALTRAY, IRELAND - JULY 25: Brett Rumford of Australia celebrates on the 18th green after winning the Nissan Irish Open at County Louth Golf Club on July 25, 2004 in Baltray, Ireland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
DUBLIN, IRELAND - JULY 27: Michael Campbell of New Zealand celebrates his play-off victory over Thomas Bjorn and Peter Hedblom at the Nissan Irish Open on July 27, 2003 at Portmarnock Golf Club in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
CORK, IRELAND - JUNE 30: Soren Hansen of Denmark and Padraic Liston of Murphys enjoy a couple of pints after the final round of the Murphy's Irish Open played at Fota Island Golf Club, Cork, on June 30, 2002. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
1 Jul 2001: Colin Montgomerie of Scotland on the 1st hole during his final round at the Murphys Irish Open at Fota Island Golf Club, Cork, Ireland. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Munday/ALLSPORT
1 Jul 2000: Patrik Sjoland of Sweden hits a birdie during the Final Round of the Murphy's Irish Open at Ballybunion Golf Club, Ireland. Mandatory Credit: Michael Cooper /Allsport
4 Jul 1999: Sergio Garcia of Spain celebrates on the 12th hole after holing a birdie during the 1999 Murphy's Irish Open played in Dublin, Ireland. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Redington /Allsport
5 Jul 1998: David Carter of England celebrates after the play-off during the Murphy's Irish Open at Druids Glen Golf Club in Dublin, Republic of Ireland. Carter won the event. \ Mandatory Credit: Andrew Redington/Allsport
DUBLIN - JULY 5: Colin Montgomerie Scotland in action during the 1997 Murphy's Irish Open held on July 5, 1997 at the Druids Glen GC in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
WICKLOW,IRELAND- JULY 3: Colin Montgomerie of Scotland walks on water as he approaches the 17th green during the Pro-Am in the Murph's Irish Open at the Druid's Glen Golf Clun on July 3, 1996 in North County Wicklow, Ireland. ( Photo by: David Cannon/Getty Images)
30 JUN 1995: Sam Torrance shows his pleasure after playing his second shot to the 18th close to the hole on his first day of the Irish Open at Mount Juliet. Mandatory Credit: Steve Munday/ALLSPORT
3 JUL 1994: BERNHARD LANGER OF GERMANY WITH A SHOT DURING THE 1994 IRISH OPEN GOLF TOURNAMENT, WHICH LANGER WON, AT THE MOUNT JULIET GOLF COURSE IN KILKENNY, IRELAND. Mandatory Credit: Steve Munday/ALLSPORT
KILKENNY, IRELAND - JULY 04: Nick Faldo of England with the trophy after his win in the 1993 Carrols Irish Open at Mount Juliet on July 4, 1993 in Kilkenny, Ireland. Faldo also came out ion top in the '91 & '92 Irish Open tournament. (Photo by Stephen Munday/Getty Images)
Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain triumphed at the Portmuck Irish Open in 1990. (Photo by Phil Sheldon/Popperfoto/Getty Images)
British golfer Ian Woosnam won the Irish Open in 1989. (Photo by Bob Thomas/Getty Images)
British golfer Ian Woosnam won the Irish Open in 1988. (Photo by Bob Thomas/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO - JUNE 1987: Bernhard Langer of Germany plays in the 1987 US Open golf tournament from June 18-21, 1987 held at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, California. (Photo by David Madison/Getty Images)
Spanish golfer Seve Ballesteros competing in the Irish Open at the Royal Dublin Golf Club, Dublin, Ireland, 1986. Ballesteros won the tournament. (Photo by Simon Bruty/Getty Images)
Spanish golfer Seve Ballesteros receiving the trophy after winning the Irish Open at the Royal Dublin Golf Club, Dublin, Ireland, 1985. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

He will be able to relax a little more as McIlroy takes on that role at Royal County Down and is certainly looking forward to the challenge.

“Any time we get back on a links is very special. Ireland has some of the very best links courses in the world, and Royal County Down is up at the very top of that list,” he says.

“I haven’t played at County Down for a good many years as I don’t have to travel very far from my home to play a world class links at Royal Portrush.

“But it is up there with the best courses anywhere in the world and it is a demanding course to play.

“A lot of links courses give you the option to hit the ball very low whereas at Royal County Down you have to hit it up in the air, so it is demanding off the tee and the second shot as well.”

Naturally more and more of Clarke’s time is going to be taken up with his Ryder Cup duties over the coming season and a half, leaving less time for him to concentrate on his playing career.

He does have a lucrative future ahead of him in just a couple of years on the Senior Tour circuit.

But he will fancy one last hurrah in the European Tour where he has excelled for over 20 years.

Imagine if he won the Irish Open on Sunday what a popular victory that would be.

 

Facts

Age: 46

Location: Grew up in Dungannon, but now lives in Portrush

Biggest achievements: The Open winner 2011,

Best finish at an Irish Open: Third in 2006

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