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Darren Clarke hopes Newcastle return can bring elusive victory at Royal County Down

By Peter Hutcheon

Darren Clarke can't remember the last time he played Royal County Down. "I have a world class links in Royal Portrush on my doorstep, so I don't have to travel to play one," the European Ryder Cup captain said.

"But I have to say I'm looking forward to getting back there again."

He was speaking at a press conference ahead of next month's Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at the famous Newcastle links and lamented the fact that he has yet to win the event.

"I've been second, I've been third and it would be nice to finally nail one - at the 24th attempt," he said.

The Ulsterman is settling into his role as Ryder Cup captain and intends to play as full a schedule as possible before the really heavy duties kick in ahead of the contest at Hazeltine next autumn.

But he's already had a quiet word with Paul Casey after the Englishman decided to base himself entirely in the States on the PGA Tour this season.

"I have talked to him about the possibility of playing more in Europe next year because there's no doubt that a fit and firing Paul Casey would be a great boost to the team," he said.

"But the Ryder Cup is just one week and we are talking about a player's career. It's a long way off."

But he did say that he hoped that Tiger Woods was going to be lining up against him on the American team.

"Tiger adds something special to every event that he plays in," he said.

"We saw him play last week and I have no doubt that he is going to get better and better and I want to see him back to his best. It's good for the game."

As to next month's Irish Open, he said that it will present a much different test than Royal Portrush three years ago.

"There's a lot of shots where you have to hit the ball high up into the air," he said. "On some links courses you can hit irons and keep it low, but not there where you have a lot of blind shots, hitting over hills.

"I think that local knowledge will play a big part in it next month because it is a different type of golf than some of the players are used to.

"It's going to be an interesting test for a lot of them and it's one, of course, that I am looking forward to."

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