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Ryder Cup: Darren Clarke urges Padraig Harrington and Paul Casey to play at Gleneagles

By Peter Hutcheon

Darren Clarke has given his all for the Ryder Cup cause and is desperate to be part of a successful European side when they take on the Americans at Celtic Manor.

The Dungannon man has given up on his hope of playing in October by pulling out of the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles next week.

In truth, he was never really in the running.

But he will be a valuable member of Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie’s backroom team alongside great friends Thomas Bjorn and Paul McGinley.

And he believes that players like Padraig Harrington and Paul Casey, both with realistic chances of claiming two of Montgomerie’s three wild cards, should do everything in their power to ensure they make the team.

If Clarke was in their shoes, that’s what he would do. Instead Harrington and Casey are heading for the Fed-Ex Cup tournament in the US.

In sharp contrast, the Americans can’t wait to get over here for Ryder Cup battle to commence, leading to questions over European commitment.

That left Clarke observing: “For me, it would be a tough decision but if I didn’t think I’d done enough for a pick, I would definitely play at Gleneagles.

“It’s disappointing they won’t be at Gleneagles. It’s their choice, but I’m not surprised. They set out their schedules at the start of the year and are committed to them.”

With Luke Donald and Justin Rose also possibly needing a wild card choice from Montgomerie for Celtic Manor, Clarke would not be drawn over who he thought should be on the team.

“I’m not going to say who should get a wild card because Monty is the captain,” he said. “He makes those choices, not me, thankfully.”

Clarke is fiercely proud of his Ryder Cup record and as a wild card choice inspired Europe to victory four years ago at the K Club. But he concedes that Montgomerie’s team is likely to be the strongest ever assembled.

“Whoever does line up, you know it is going to be an incredibly strong team,” he said.

“We will probably have the favourites tag and have two major champions on our team as well. But over-confidence will not be a factor.”

Clarke made the cut after receiving an invitation to last week’s US PGA, finishing in a share of 48th place.

“Tee to green I’m playing as well now as at any time in my career,” he insisted. “But my putter was cold and that’s why I finished where I did.”

Clarke kept in touch with Rory McIlroy’s progress over the closing holes at Whistling Straits via his i-phone on the way to the airport in Chicago on Sunday.

And he is adamant that, although the 21-year-old will be disappointed not to have done better than another third-place finish, he will win a Major soon.

“Whistling Straits is one of my favourite courses in America, and although you can make birdies, you can also make a big mistake,” he said. “For Rory it’s definitely coming. He’s doing all the right things.”

Clarke is in the process of moving back home this week to a new house in Portrush for the benefit of his sons Conor and Tyrone.

“When I moved to London 13 years ago, it was always my intention to come back home again someday,” he said. “Tyrone is going into first form in Dalriada. Conor’s going to go there as well and my sister’s two already go there. The whole thing is so much easier for me and Royal Portrush is on my doorstep.

“When I moved over to London, I was playing a lot of golf all over the world and it made more sense for me to be based there. Travelling is going to be slightly more difficult for me now, but that’s a price I’m prepared to pay to live back home again.”

Clarke was at Greenmount in Co Antrim yesterday at his golf academy, run in partnership with Co-operative Food.

“The facility here is just fantastic,” he enthused. “There was never anything like this when I was growing up. Golf has been good to me and through the academy and my Foundation, this is my way of giving something back.”

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