Darren Clarke triumphs on emotional return
Northern Irishman Darren Clarke got a hero's welcome at the Ryder Cup on Friday and answered concerns about his ability to cope with the emotions of the occasion by winning a point for Europe.
Clarke, whose wife Heather died of cancer last month, has only played tournament golf once -- at last week's Madrid Open -- since missing the cut in the British Open on July 21. However, he partnered old friend Lee Westwood to a one hole victory over heavyweight American duo Phil Mickelson and Chris DiMarco in the opening fourballs.
Spectators roared with delight when Clarke walked on to the first tee and gave him the loudest and longest ovation of the morning. Opponents Mickelson and DiMarco greeted him with big hugs, as did Westwood, a regular partner in previous Ryder Cups and a fellow captain's pick.
"The reception I got on that first tee, I'll never forget that, it will stay with me for ever," Clarke said after the match.
The Ulsterman rewarded the spectators' enthusiasm -- and the faith of European captain Ian Woosnam -- by sinking an eight-footer for birdie at the first to put his team one up.
He ended with another birdie on the five-par 18th -- his fourth of the match -- to secure the point.
"The first tee shot was always going to be a tough one for me...but you get into it. It's my job," said Clarke, who is not playing in the afternoon session.
The 38-year-old said earlier this week he would not be distracted by the emotion of playing golf's premier sporting event on home turf.
"I won't be any more nervous than I have been in my previous four Ryder Cups," he said.
"Yes, the emotional side of things will play a factor but, when the golf starts, we're back in the business of playing. And hopefully I'm playing the way I want to play and help the team."
He has beaten world number one Tiger Woods to win the WGC Accenture Matchplay Championship in the past and has a fine track record at the Ryder Cup venue, the K Club in Ireland, where he won the 2001 European Open and has had a European Tour joint-record round of 60.