By Brian Keogh
Darren Clarke watched Padraig Harrington’s Open victory and insisted: Now it’s my turn to make it happen.
Ranked a lowly 135th in the world this week, Clarke was hopping mad after he double bogeyed the final hole to miss the cut at Carnoustie by a shot.
But as he prepares to tee it up in this week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and next week’s US PGA, the Ulsterman confessed that Harrington’s major win will inspire him to try harder than ever.
Speaking at his new course design at Moyvalley in Co Kildare, where his Foundation will join forces with Junior Golf Ireland, Clarke said: “Padraig’s win is an incentive for me. He has put his head down and worked and worked and worked and worked.
“I’m delighted for him because he has worked so hard. I’d love to get myself into a similar position and give myself a chance.”
No-one appreciated Harrington’s double bogey saving pitch at the 72nd hole more than fellow professional Clarke.
And the Dungannon giant, who turns 39 in two weeks time, was full of admiration for Harrington’s composure under pressure.
He said: “Padraig played the best of anybody on Sunday by a long way and he thoroughly deserved the win.
“He played fantastic. Even his up and down, the way he gathered himself on the 72nd hole, says an awful lot about him.
“It wasn’t easy to get it up and down with the thoughts running through his head after hitting it in the water twice.
“We know when things are going not the way we want them. Sometimes your brain doesn’t quite think the way it should do.
“But I think his up and down on the 72nd was fantastic, being a professional and watching him get it up and down. Whatever thoughts are going through his head, wondering had he lost the Open and all that stuff.”
Apart from last year’s Ryder Cup, Clarke has had a miserable time since the death of wife Heather from cancer nearly 12 months ago.
And with the anniversary of her death coming up the day before his 39th birthday on August 13, he is hoping to turn things around in this week’s WGC event in Akron, scene of his second World Golf Championship victory in 2003.
He said: “Time is healing. On August 13th it will be a year and that’s a bit of a watershed for me. It will be a difficult day, but I’m doing as well as I can.
“I’m taking a lot of knocks on the chin at the minute but the one thing I know is that you’ve got to battle on.”
A battling performance in Akron, where he will be joined by Harrington and Paul McGinley, is vital for Clarke’s faint hopes of qualifying for the FedEx Cup play-off events.
He said: “My game’s alright. Those last five or six holes at Carnoustie, I don’t know what happened.
“Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday there at the Open was as good as I’ve played or have been playing for a very long time. I’m just not able to do the same thing on the course at the moment.
“I was very annoyed at Carnoustie. I haven’t been as angry for a very, very long time. But I think my anger was justified.
“Standing on the 14th tee, if I birdie 14, I’m right back in the tournament. and then I end up missing the cut out of the blue. It’s just the way things have been going of late and I’ll have to keep my head down and battle on.
“I like Akron, it’s been pretty good for me. I’m comfortable on it. I’ve good memories, but at the end of the day I try not to get too annoyed with myself.
“At the same time I come off at the Open and I’m livid, can’t tell you how angry I was. If I was to accept everything, I wouldn’t get so annoyed.
“It’s part of who I am. I’m battling, keeping on going, and put some scores on the board.”
As for the US PGA, he said: “I’ve played Southern Hills before course before so I know where I’m going there as well. The PGA usually set it up a little bit softer, so there are more chances there.”
Clarke pans to fulfil corporate obilgations for his sponsors Barclays later this month, even if he fails to qualify for the Barclays Classic in Westchester from August 23-26 - the first oof four FedEx Cup play-off events.
After that he will play four events in a row in Europe - the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, the Omega European Masters in Switzerland, the Mercedes-Benz in Cologne and the British Masters at The Belfry.