Dual captain Clarke seeks an early Christmas gift
Published 10/12/2015 | 02:30
Darren Clarke's profile will be front and centre throughout the 2016 season leading up to the Ryder Cup match at Hazeltine National from September 30-October 2.
Clarke's duties as captain of Europe will keep him in the media spotlight as the build-up steadily wends its way throughout the campaign.
It will spike at intervals, particularly when he names his vice-captains and eventually, the dreaded good news/bad news stories surrounding the captain's picks.
There will, no doubt, be a couple of flurries of drama surrounding potential candidates who lose form at critical junctures in the process, and regular updates on Ryder Cup issues from both sides of the Atlantic.
Clarke's style of captaincy will receive an early test in the EurAsia Cup match in Glenmarie Golf & Country club in Kuala Lumpur from January 15-17.
The European skipper already has his side assembled and completed with a sprinkling of hardened Ryder Cup experience in the form of Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter as his captain's picks.
Team Asia, captained by Jeev Milkha Singh, will be named next Tuesday, so Clarke's reactions to the selection will be expected and duly delivered.
These diplomatic and captaincy duties have already overshadowed Clarke's golf game, and he has one last chance to give a performance in the Thailand Golf Open at Amati, Chonburi.
If the golfing gods were to throw Clarke (above) an early Christmas present, it would be in the form of four rounds of top quality golf because for a long time, he has cut a frustrated figure on the fairways.
On the European Tour he has played 20 events, missing the cut in ten, plus a withdrawal after three rounds in Italy.
His biggest prize money was €31,000 for Tied-38 in the BMW PGA Championship last May and his best finish was the Tshwane Open (Tied-15) in March.
In America, a T-52 for $23,800 was his biggest cheque.
He followed a T-30 in the Australian Open with a missed cut in the Ho Tram Open won by Sergio Garcia last Sunday.
Recently his fellow Northern Ireland Major winners Rory McIlroy (DP World Tour Championship) and Graeme McDowell (OHL Classic at Mayakoba) had late victories to end the year on a high note.
It would be a wonderful hat-trick if Clarke could emulate them.
He is joined in the field by Cork's Niall Turner who plys his trade on the Asian Tour.
Graeme McDowell teams up with American Gary Woodland, in the Franklin Templeton Shootout which starts today at Tiburon GC in Naples, Florida.
The unique event features 24 top players competing in two-man teams today (Scramble), tomorrow (modified foursomes) and Saturday (fourball, betterball)
Jason Day and Cameron Tringale will defend the title they won last year.
Thailand Golf Open
Live, Sky Sports 4, 7.0 a.m
Omega Dubai Ladies Masters
Sky Sports 4 (red button) 8.30 a.m