Sport Irish Open

Friday 2 December 2016

Video: Darren Clarke hoping for a lie-in at Royal County Down on Saturday

Phil Casey

Published 26/05/2015 | 16:47

Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke has set his sights on at least earning a lie-in on Saturday morning as he looks to win the Irish Open for the first time at the 24th attempt.

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Clarke has recorded just two top-10 finishes in his previous 23 appearances, finishing second to Colin Montgomerie in 2001 and third in 2006, when he fluffed his pitch to the 18th and then three-putted for bogey.

However, he emerged with enormous credit that year after an incident on the ninth when play resumed on the Monday following a weather delay.

The Northern Irishman had pushed his tee shot into heavy rough before play was suspended on Sunday evening, but found the ball in a much better lie the next day.

Clarke refused to take advantage of any misguided intervention and, instead of going for the green which he was entitled to do, chipped out sideways, eventually taking a bogey five and going on to finish two shots behind winner Thomas Bjorn.

"It's one event I've always aspired to play really, really well in," Clarke said at Royal County Down on Tuesday. "Unfortunately, more Irish Opens than I can count, I've been first off on the Saturday morning which meant that I was not involved in the business end of the tournament. Hopefully this week will be a little bit different."

Clarke has not recorded a single top-10 on the European Tour since winning the Open Championship at Sandwich in 2011, but comes into the event on the back of a closing 66 in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth on Sunday.

"I played really nicely all week, just made some silly mistakes," Clarke added. "In terms of my ball striking it was really, really good again. Hopefully I can bring that with me this week and just kick on from Sunday.

"We are on one of the best courses in the world, it's playing very fast and it's going to be a really, really tough challenge this week. Some of the shots you're going to have to land 30 yards short to keep it on the green.

"I think the course is going to stack up very well against modern technology. It requires a little bit more guile and patience than most courses do. It's still a sensational test, irrelevant of technology, how far it has moved on. It's about draws and fades, hold it against the wind, use the ground; that's what it's going to be.

"The golf course doesn't know whether you're a home player or not, but I think a little bit of local knowledge and knowledge of playing links golf is going to be important this week."

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