Clarke slams Gleneagles

By Brian Keogh

Darren Clarke slammed Gleneagles as a Ryder Cup venue after crashing eight shots off the pace in the Johnnie Walker Championship.

The Centenary Course will host the biggest matchplay contest in the world in 2014.

But Clarke was unimpressed with the Jack Nicklaus designed track as he opened four birdies and four bogeys in a level par 73.

Watched for the first time at an event by his sons Conor and Tyrone, the five-time Ryder Cup veteran had to hole a 10 footer at his final hole to match par.

He then let rip at the Ryder Cup venue, insisting: "I think it is unbelievable they have chosen this course to stage the 2014 match.

"There's only been one Ryder Cup in Scotland, in 1973, and then they choose a course like this one."

Links gem Muirfield hosted the Ryder Cup in 1973 and while Clarke likes the other courses at Glenagles, such as the King's or Queen's, he is not so sure about the Centenary Course as a Ryder Cup venue.

He added: "There are even two better ones here at Gleneagles. Scotland is the home of golf and we should not be playing on an American-style course. It's beyond my comprehension.

"Gleneagles is a wonderful venue but this is the wrong course. The Ryder Cup is steeped in history and I just can't see it here.

"There was the same argument about The K Club in Ireland. But Ireland doesn't stage big, fantastic golf events as often as they do here Scotland.

"Scotland has got everything that happens when it comes to golf - the Open, the Dunhill Links, the Senior Open and now the Women's British Open.

"At the end of the day, all I am doing is telling the truth. I know I am going to be ripped for it. The Centenary Course at Gleneagles is a good tournament venue but not for a Ryder Cup."

The course certainly suited Scot Marc Warren as he blasted an error-free 65 to take a one-stroke lead over Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts.

And he confessed that he owed a massive debt to coach Bob Torrance after tearing a strip off the 75-year-old swing master earlier this week for failing to notice a flaw in his set-up.

Warred said: "A lot of times players want to take it out on him purely because he is there. The caddie gets it on the course and Bob gets it on the range.

"On Tuesday we were working away and it wasn't really the way I wanted it to be. I spoke to Bob later that night and we both agreed I was just frustrated the way I had been playing and it came to a head.

"Everything is fine now. He has an obscene talent for watching the golf swing. But he is human and everybody misses things."

Dubliner Peter Lawrie hit a one under par 72 to lead the Irish challenge with Damien McGrane and Gary Murphy a shot further back after even par 73s.

Waterville's David Higgins opened with a 74 but Graeme McDowell's hopes of making the Seve Trophy team suffered a blow when he crashed to an opening 77.

He said: "It wasn't what I was hoping for but the game is right there. I'm still looking forward to the next few weeks and I can still qualify for the Seve Trophy with a couple of good performances."