Clarke taking Indian detour to help secure Ryder Cup spot
Published 21/01/2010 | 05:00
ACTIONS are supposed to speak louder than words but in Darren Clarke's case they scream of his determination to play in next October's Ryder Cup.
His decision to skip next week's Qatar Masters in Doha, adding next month's Avantha Masters in New Delhi to his schedule instead, illustrates Clarke's desire to hoover up every available Ryder Cup qualifying point.
Though he describes the tournament in Qatar as "an outstanding event played on a brilliant course", Clarke (41) said: "sadly, it's one I just can't score on. My working week there invariably runs from Tuesday to Friday and no further. So there's no point in going back. It's all about giving myself the optimum chance to perform."
No matter that the €1.7m purse in Qatar is €200,000 greater, or that Clarke was struck down by a dose of 'New Delhi belly' on his only visit to India's capital in 2008.
Clarke struck the ball well enough at last week's Joburg Open to suggest he'll be a force in Abu Dhabi this weekend, even if eight of the world's top 14 players feature.
All winter, Clarke has done extensive work on his putting, he and coach Phil Kenyon even moving indoors to work on a special 15-foot mat when snow belted down earlier this month.
"That's one of the really big things I did in my six weeks off," he said. "We identified a few things not quite working as well as they should be."
Clarke's putter went cold at a pivotal moment on the front nine last Sunday, for example, but his chip-in at the last for eagle was a real confidence booster.
His recent accuracy off the tee should stand to him on the testing 7,400-yard course in Abu Dhabi, especially as the new 'v-grooves' come into operation for the first time on the European Tour.
And unlike Lee Westwood -- named European Players' Player of the Year yesterday -- or the Englishman's hottest rival in the Race to Dubai, Rory McIlroy, Clarke will have no ring-rust after his two recent outings in South Africa.
Following last Monday's passing of his grandmother Ruby, Clarke only plays in Abu Dhabi this week at the behest of his father Godfrey. "I spoke to my dad and he insisted I play," he explained.
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