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Darren Clarke favourite at the K Club

The K Club has grown into a monster of 7,337 yards for the Smurfit European Open that starts today, which is not all that discomfiting for the players, who will just haul out their new space-age gizmos and blast away. It is not so clever, though, for the caddies — if courses, and therefore rounds, get much longer, they will soon have to start thinking about packing a pair of pyjamas and a jar of Horlicks into their masters’ bags.

Darren Clarke, the defending champion here, is not put out personally by the changes, because he is a big man with a big game, though he is still not happy about it. Clarke is an outspoken critic of advances in ball and club science, although the competition forces him to go along with it.

In fact, he revealed himself to be a bit of a Luddite in matters of golf engineering. However, he might have been going a touch too far when he suggested that all that metal stuff should be thrown away to be replaced by good, old-fashioned timber.

“I would ban (the new technology) and have everybody go back to persimmon,” he said. “If we did that, we wouldn’t need 7,300-yard courses.”

Clarke suggested that the low scores would then come from players who were proper ball-strikers, and he had a point.

Clarke will still go into the tournament heavily fancied to repeat his triumph of last year, when he became the first Irishman for 19 years to win a European Tour event on home soil. He will face plenty of competition, however, for as the Open Championship grows ever closer, the A-list are lured in increasing numbers from their hideaways to join the party.

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