Darren Clarke hoping to roll back the years
This week's KLM Open will provide both happy and sad memories for former champion Darren Clarke.
There's a four-foot square picture of Clarke and his two sons, Tyrone and Conor, taken on the occasion of Clarke's 2008 success at Kennemer GC hanging on the wall within the Media Centre at this week's host Hilversum Golf Club in Holland.
Clarke could easily see the picture through a glass partition that overlooked the Hilversum range where he was practicing yesterday in the rain ahead of today's opening round.
“That's a great shot of me and the boys with the trophy. I've got a smaller version of the picture hanging up on the wall back home,” he said. “It was my last win on the Tour so it would be nice to get another shot with the trophy this week.”
Victory two years ago put Clarke in line for a Nick Faldo Ryder Cup wildcard pick. In the end he was harshly overlooked, but returns this year to the Ryder Cup stage as one of Europe's four vice-captains.
There will also, of course, be the sad memories for the Ulsterman.
It was four years ago — on the weekend of the 2006 KLM Open — that Clarke's wife Heather succumbed to her long battle with breast cancer.
The event was staged from August 10-13 that year and she passed away on the final day of the tournament.
“I'll never forget it as it was August 13 and it was my birthday the following day,” said Clarke. “It was very difficult to deal with, as you can well imagine.”
Clarke contests the opening two rounds of this year's event in the company of Ryder Cup rookie Francesco Molinari and former Ryder Cup star Robert Karlsson.
Also in the field is Paul McGinley, who is competing alongside former British Open winner Todd Hamilton and reigning BMW PGA champion Simon Khan. Shane Lowry, Peter Lawrie, Damien McGrane, Michael Hoey and Gareth Maybin will also eyeing victory.
Reigning British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen is also competing, having arrived in Holland with the famed Claret Jug.
Oosthuizen enthused about the reception golf's most identifiable trophy got when he returned home to Mosel Bay in South Africa. “You have never seen so many people hug, kiss and want to have their photograph taken with the Claret Jug,” he said.