DUBAI // It was not exactly his first competitive role as team captain, but Darren Clarke was at Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club on Wednesday, skippering a side against the United States.
The Northern Irishman has much to do in his capacity as the man chosen to lead Europe at next year’s Ryder Cup, a responsibility that officially began back in February.
Yet before he finalises plans to retain the trophy at Hazeltine in September 2016, Clarke was busy finessing his leadership qualities at a slightly less pressurised event in Dubai.
The 2011 Open champion is spending the next few days competing at the inaugural Icons Cup, a golf exhibition that has pulled together some of the most prominent names in sport.
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As captain of a Rest of the World team that includes Shane Warne, Brian O’Driscoll, Luis Figo and Kenny Dalglish, he is intent on not only giving tips, but taking them, too.
Anyway, since he is pitted against a Team USA lead by Fred Couples, the 1992 Masters champion, Clarke knows he certainly will not get any guidance from his American counterparts.
“This is a totally different thing, dealing with legendary sports stars from all over the world,” Clarke said. “But what I will be able to pick up, especially with the guys on my team — the Americans wouldn’t help me anyway because we’re trying to beat them next year — is to pick their brains a bit about those situations they’ve been in throughout their careers.
“And if there’s anything that I can glean from them that may help me in a small way, then I’d be foolish not to take that opportunity.”
This week, Clarke comes up against the likes of Ray Allen, Marcus Allen, Ken Griffey Jr and Oscar De La Hoya, yet in 16 months’ time he will have to negotiate a set of Americans with altogether superior golfing abilities.
Europe’s resounding victory at Gleneagles last September — the hosts won 16.5 to 11.5 — extended their recent Ryder Cup record to eight successes from the past 10 events. However, with Jordan Spieth recently crowned Masters champion, and 12 US players in the top 20 of the official world rankings, Clarke realises defending the title in Minnesota will represent a huge task.
“It’s something I’m very excited about, looking forward to it,” he said. “There’s an awful lot that goes on behind the scenes as well. But the Ryder Cup is going to be a very, very special week.
“The American team is currently getting stronger and stronger. You’ve got the likes of Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed — young guys coming through — and they’re going to be hungry to win when we get to Hazeltine. It’s a long way off yet, but obviously I’ll do my utmost to keep that trophy in Europe.”
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