Belfast Telegraph

It could be back to school for Clarke in USA

By Peter Hutcheon

Darren Clarke is pondering whether or not to go the Qualifying School in America at the end of the season in an attempt to hang onto his playing rights.

Clarke loses his Tour Card at the end of the season because he has not played enough events this year and because he won't have earned enough money on the other side of the Atlantic.

Although he is currently outside the top 188 place on the European Tour Order of Merit at 126, he will qualify for his European Tour Card as a current Ryder Cup player.

In any case, he can play at home for virtually as long as he likes by virtue of his position on the career money list where he is in fifth having won over 15 million euros since turning professional in 1991.

Clarke has now dropped to 153 in the world and faces having to qualify for all four major tournaments next year.

In addition, he will miss out on the four lucrative World Golf Championships unless he can claw his way back into the elite top 50.

Clarke was granted a compassionate extension to his playing rights in America for this year after the death of his wife Heather last summer.

But he has struggled to find anything like his best form after taking an extended break following last September's Ryder Cup heroics at the K Club.

A spokesman for Clarke said last night that he had not yet decided whether or not to try and regain his card through the American Qualifying School system.

Graeme McDowell is down to 131 on the world rankings but he says his season starts now with qualification for next year's Ryder Cup in America about to begin.

McDowell, who missed the cut at the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles last week is in the field for the Omega European Masters along with Clarke which starts today in Switzerland.

Belfast Telegraph


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