Clarke retains PGA Tour rights


Ryder Cup hero Darren Clarke will retain his PGA Tour membership for 2007 despite not playing the required 15 tournaments this year.

Clarke entered 11 events on the PGA Tour this season but withdrew from three of them as his wife battled terminal illness.

It's the second year in a row that the PGA Tour has waived its rules for Clarke, whose wife Heather passed away in August after a long battle with breast cancer.

Last year the Dungannon man played just 12 PGA Tour events but was told that his playing privileges were secure because of his personal circumstances.

After receiving the same treatment again this year, Clarke said: "The PGA Tour has been kind to me, and unbelievably fair. Next year, I'm going to try to play as much as I can. But the whole schedule revolves around my kids."

Clarke finished 52nd on the PGA Tour money list last year with $1,465,921 but is 120th so far this season with just $660,898.

The Dungannon man's priority is his sons Tyrone, 8, and Conor who celebrated his sixth birthday last week.

Clarke said: "Things are massively different to what they were before. At some stage I have to grow up and this is the prime time for it. I have added responsibilities now and I have to do the right thing, both by my boys and my job."

Clarke is playing in this week's Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland and plans to compete in the season-ending Volvo Masters at Valderrama.

He added: "After Valderrama I've got five days off and I have got to go down to Pinnacle Point, the golf course I have done in South Africa and open that.

"Then I go from there to Japan to the Visa to defend that, then I think I may play Tiger's event just before Christmas.

"I've talked a lot to Tyrone and Conor at home and explained everything that is going on. They know when I am there and they know when I am not there.

"Every decision I have made so far I have sat down and talked to them to explain what was going on."

Last week's birthday party came just days after Clarke played a massive role in Europe's record-breaking Ryder Cup win at the K Club.

Clarke said: "To see the look on Conor's face when he turned six was worth a million Ryder Cups. When they're not in school, I won't be playing golf. Golf is not my priority anymore. My boys are."

The decision by the PGA Tour is the second piece of good news that Clarke has received in recent days.

Last weekend, football star David Beckham sent him three signed Real Madrid football shirts, one each for himself and his sons.

Clarke said: "I think it's a fantastic gesture from somebody I've never met. It shows what a great guy he is to go out of his way to do something like that."