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Darren Clarke pushing hard for Ryder Cup place

Darren Clarke will miss next month’s U.S. Open as he pursues his goal of an automatic place on this year’s European Ryder Cup team, he said on Wednesday.

“My intention was to play in Europe all this year and I’m not going all the way over to the States for one week with only Monday to prepare,” he said the day before the start of the Irish Open on the Adare Manor course near Limerick.

Even when told he could automatically qualify for the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in California next month by finishing in the top two at next week’s BMW Championship at Wentworth, Clarke repeated he was sticking to his plans.

“At the moment, no, I won’t play in the U.S. Open if I should qualify at Wentworth,” said the 39-year-old, who ended a five-year spell without a European Tour victory when he won the Asian Open in Shanghai at the end of April.

“My schedule is firmly based around Europe and my goal is to make the (Ryder Cup) team,” the Northern Irishman said.

Clarke, who helped Europe retain the Ryder Cup in Ireland in 2006 a few weeks after the death of his wife Heather, trails way down the European points standings in 28th place.

“I probably need to win another couple of times if I’m to make the team,” said Clarke, who is determined to play in his sixth Ryder Cup against the U.S. at Valhalla in Kentucky in September.

“This year my schedule is based around competing in Europe so that I can get myself back up the ladder again, and to also start climbing up the world rankings, which I’ve done,” added the world number 114.

The man to beat at the 2.5 million euro ($3.87 million) tournament is defending champion Padraig Harrington, who singled out his Irish Open success last year as the catalyst for his British Open victory two months later.

“You couldn’t underestimate how important winning the Irish Open last year was in terms of going on to win at Carnoustie,” said the 36-year-old Dubliner.

“It told me that I could go on and win a tournament under a lot of distraction and that gives you a lot of confidence when you can come through something like that.”

World Number 20 Lee Westwood and former Irish Open and current European Open title holder Colin Montgomerie head a strong British contingent.


May 15, 2008

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