Darren Clarke relishes Ryder Cup bid with just one year to go
Darren Clarke was keen to highlight his close friendship with Davis Love III at the 2016 Ryder Cup Year to Go celebrations.
The good pals will be rivals at golf's biennial match between the United States and Europe from next September at Hazeltine, with the tee-off exactly one year tomorrow.
Fittingly for one of the world's most compelling sporting contests, it was a presentation of jerseys from the five Minnesota sports teams - the Vikings, Timberwolves, Lynx, Twins and Wild - to the two captains which launched the countdown to next year's eagerly awaited contest.
Representatives from the professional football, hockey, baseball and men's and women's basketball teams handed over named jerseys to the captains as the state of Minnesota prepares to embrace the action.
"It's a great honour to be Ryder Cup captain," said Dungannon man Clarke as he presented golf bags signed by both captains to Governor of Minnesota Mark Dayton and the PGA of America for their hospitality, and to the sports teams for their welcome.
"Davis and I have been friends for a very long time," he recounted. "My first match in The Ryder Cup was 1997 at Valderrama. Seve (Ballesteros) paired me with Monty (Colin Montgomerie) and we were facing Davis and Freddie Couples on the first morning. Davis went first and flushed one down the middle. I got up to the first tee, looked down, didn't really see a ball as I was a little nervous, teed it up higher, then lower, then higher and then thought try and hit it. Fortunately I did but that was our first meeting in the Ryder Cup and since then we have always been very, very good friends.
"Davis waited for me after I won the Open Championship at Royal St George's and he gave me a big hug and watched the whole presentation.
"He is one of the best men in the game of golf, if not the best man, he is a man I have a huge amount of respect for and his integrity is more than anything else.
"I am sure the atmosphere next year will be electric, full of home support as it should be and I know Davis will use that and also ensure the match is played in the manner it should be.
"I cannot wait to return and we will try and beat Davis as he will try and beat us but when we leave we will leave as friends."