Macao Open-bound Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke in awe of British Open finale
The 2011 winner, who has confirmed his trip to Macau from October 13-16, joined the chorus of approval following Sunday’s showdown between eventual champion Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson
The chorus of approval that has followed Henrik Stenson’s conquering of the Open Championship – and of Phil Mickelson – on Sunday is still sounding out around the world and there was no keener watcher of events as they unfolded at Royal Troon than European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke.
The Ulsterman admitted to having his eyes on the leaderboard but his thoughts on the showdown with the Americans at Hazeltine in Minnesota in late September and early October as Sweden’s Stenson etched his name in Open folklore with a final round eight-under-par 63 for a record-low total in a major of 20-under-par.
It was an effort that has had the greats of the game wondering aloud whether they had ever seen a better round, or a better two-man battle, on the last day of a Major. And Clarke – winner of the Open Championship himself in 2011 – was among their number.
“When Henrik gets in the zone, whenever he really focusses in, he’s unbelievable,” said Clarke.
“So to go out there against Phil in the fashion in which he did – and with Phil you have an incredible competitor – showed that mentally he is just unbelievable. To have Henrik and indeed the Masters champion as well [Danny Willett] in our [Ryder Cup] team augurs well for us.
“We’ll be looking to Henrik for leadership. At the Ryder Cup you look towards the more seasoned guys for leadership and we have five rookies potentially making the team. The Ryder Cup is a very different animal all together. I’m sure Henrik will be there for us to give the rookies as much help as he can.”
The 47-year-old Clarke – who won The Open at Royal St George’s in 2011 and on Sunday carded a final round one-under-par 70 to finish tied for 30th – on Tuesday announced he would be returning to the Asian Tour for the US$1.1 million Venetian Macao Open from October 13-16 which is just 10 days after the final shots will be fired at Hazeltine.
Clarke admitted to having plenty on his mind now – and plenty to think about ahead – as he worked towards finalising Europe’s Ryder Cup line-up while still getting on with his “day job” as a player.
The final European squad for the showdown with the Americans will be announced after the Made in Denmark tournament finishes on August 28.
“I’m excited to see who’s going to make the team and who’s not,” said Clarke, who last played in Macau in 1999. “The Ryder Cup is obviously my priority at the moment ahead of my own golf but having said that there’s still a competitive side to me and I still want to get out play golf – it’s what I do.
“So the Venetian Macao Open will be the first chance I will have to get back in to my real job and by then there’s no doubt I’ll be ready to get back out there and getting on with the next stage of my career.”