image

Venetian Macao Open 2016

by SCMP

Venetian Macao Open 2016

Darren Clarke defends Ryder Cup captaincy in face of criticism – ‘the guys could not have given me an inch more’

Europe skipper, playing in Macau this week, says he has no regrets about how he prepared the team, saying the Americans simply played better

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 October, 2016, 5:41pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 October, 2016, 11:36pm

Darren Clarke consigned Europe’s Ryder Cup defeat to history on Wednesday as he prepares to start a new chapter in his life at the US$1.1 million Venetian Macao Open.

He didn’t turn out to be the genius – US captain Davis Love grabbed that accolade ¬ but Clarke was adamant he and his team had done everything they could at Hazeltine.

“I’ve been through worse,” said Clarke, who lost his first wife, Heather, to cancer in 2006. “The guys could not have given me an inch more and no one could have tried harder.

“I have gone through everything. The Americans just played better. Such is professional sport.”

Clarke, 48, has taken flak over his player selection and pairings – both sensitive and prickly issues – but said in hindsight he would have changed nothing.

“If you are a winning captain you are a genius and if you are a losing captain everything gets dissected,” he said. “That goes with the job.

“My guys couldn’t have tried any harder,” he repeated.

Much had been made of America’s new team strength under Love, but Clarke said he was “more concerned with his own team and our team spirit was fantastic”.

Clarke, who won the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St George’s, said he was committed to playing in Macau “long before” the Ryder Cup.

“Should we had won, it would have made no difference. I would have been here anyway. I played here in 1999 and had a great time with Lee Westwood,” said the Northern Irishman.

“I’ve always played all over the world and I had heard how much it [Macau] has changed. When the opportunity came up ‘would you like to come back’, I said definitely.

“Obviously there is a big tournament back home [the British Masters at The Grove near London] but I wanted to come here. I’ve always enjoyed Asia and I haven’t been out here this year.”

The reason for that is quite simple – the biennial battle between Europe and the US.

“These past couple of years, my whole existence has been Ryder Cup, Ryder Cup, Ryder Cup. My golf has taken a back seat.

“I have been practising, yes, but not to the extent that a professional golfer needs to practise,” said Clarke, who has 22 pro tour wins to his name.

“I’m getting back to my day job and that’s playing again. Essentially I am a professional golfer and I want to play.”

It’s been 17 years since Clarke was last in Macau and the landscape is vastly different with the Cotai Strip providing a surreal backdrop.

The course at the Macau Golf & Country Club is also a lot more mature and challenging as Clarke found out in the pro-am on Wednesday. He also had to deal with wind and rain.

His Ryder Cup vice-captain, Ian Poulter, was also battling the elements, along with world No 14 Branden Grace, defending champion Scott Hend and 2014 champion Anirban Lahiri.

Seven of the top 10 players on the Asian Tour order of merit will be teeing it up in the first round on Thursday.

But all eyes will be on former Ryder Cup captain Clarke who looked at peace with himself as he strode up the fairways adjoining the cliffs of Coloane.

“It’s a new chapter and I’m doing what I love,” he said.