Friday 23 March 2018

Clarke's European team ready for battle

Darren Clarke. Photo: Getty
Darren Clarke. Photo: Getty
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Irish golfers operate on a trans-continental basis this week as the new season begins to gather momentum.

Darren Clarke and Shane Lowry are in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the second staging of the biennial EurAsia Cup match, which starts tomorrow.

Meanwhile, today Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell are surfing the high life in Hawaii in the $5.8m Sony Open at Waialae GC, while Michael Hoey, Kevin Phelan, Paul Dunne and Ruaidhri McGee hunt Race To Dubai points in South Africa at the Joburg Open.

As the true-Dub character in a TV ad for a building society says before going on his 'hollyers': 'It's gonna be tropic!"

And that is exactly the situation facing Clarke's Europeans in sweltering heat and high levels of humidity as they prepare to face Asia, captained by Jeev Milkha Singh, at the Glenmarie Golf & Country Club.

"We are playing in the Asian team's backyard. They are a bit more used to the heat and humidity than we are, but the guys are just relaxing and getting used to it.

"When the humidity comes with this sort of heat, it is quite oppressive. It feels even hotter than the last time we were here. Just drink lots of fluids," said Clarke.

The opposing captain, Milkha Singh, and his merry men intend to make life as hot as possible on the course for the Europeans.

India's Anirban Lahiri noted that the visiting team has presented an arguably stronger line-up than for the first staging of the event two years ago which finished in a 10-10 draw following a stirring Asian comeback.


"If they send more players who have got Ryder Cup experience, match-play experience, and they still can't beat us, it's going to send some tremors down the Ryder Cup team," said Lahiri.

Lowry appreciates the chance to compete as part of a team instead of the day-to-day ploughing of a lonely furrow in this individual sport, but is clear that the task for every player is to bring his 'A' game to the contest.

"Obviously it's different, my first team event as a pro. It's great to be here, but at the end of the day, you still want to play good golf yourself. You're going out there to play as best you can," said Lowry.

Harrington, McDowell and the rest of the field in the Sony Open in Hawaii can be relieved that world No 1 Jordan Spieth is taking the week off.

Harrington commented after the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, which Spieth won on 30 under par: "If you took Jordan out of the tournament then it would have been a really good event.

"He made us all look very average - 30 under par was super scoring.

"That said, I am very happy with how my opening week went, and am excited about next week and the season ahead."

Harrington's sixth place was a positive opening to the campaign, but McDowell will hope for better after finishing 29th of the 30-man elite field last week.

Paul Dunne is eager for a good start to the Joburg Open after being forced to withdraw from the BMW SA Open last week due to a viral infection.

The 23-year-old from Bray was told to rest and re-hydrate over the weekend. He has now recovered and is ready for his first European Tour start of 2016.

Joburg Open

Live, Sky Sports 4, 8.30am

Sony Open in Hawaii

Live, Sky Sports 4, midnight

Irish Independent

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