Royal Trophy loss is Ryder gain

By Brian Keogh

Paul McGinley and Darren Clarke will get an extra chance to earn vital Ryder Cup points following the postponement of next week's Royal Trophy in Bangkok.

The Thai government has announced a 15-day period of mourning following the death of the elder sister of King Bhumibol Adulyadej on January 2.

The matchplay clash between Europe and Asia was due to start on Friday but has now been postponed indefinitely as a mark of respect.

And while McGinley is disappointed to miss out, he can grab massive Ryder Cup points when he adds the megabucks Abu Dhabi Championship to his schedule from January 17-20.

McGinley said: "I am really disappointed to miss that Royal Trophy because I was really ready to go and use it as a really good platform to practice and play in a really competitive environment before the season started.

"I was going to play the Royal Trophy and then Qatar and Dubai. But now I am playing all three in the Gulf, which will be a good chance to get some Ryder Cup points on the board.

"I am going to stay put in Europe and try to make some world ranking and Ryder Cup points and I have told Dermot (Desmond) to look for a new partner for the AT&T National Pro-Am at Pebble Beach the week after Dubai.

"I am not going to play America at all until I start to play a bit better and get my focus on Ryder Cup points."

Ulsterman Clarke was also due to join Ryder Cup stars McGinley, David Howell, Robert Karlsson and Lee Westwood in Europe's Seve Trophy team.

But he now gets a chance to take a small step towards a sixth cap in next week's Joburg Open from January 10-13.

Clarke's third place finish in December's South African Open was his first top-five finish for 18 months.

Bidding to build on that form, Clarke said: "I went to South Africa before Christmas because I felt I needed to get competitive again, and played pretty well in both events.

"At Leopard Creek in the Alfred Dunhill Championship I didn’t quite finish it off, but then in the South African Airways Open I played mainly well, controlling my ball flight in the wind better than for a long time. With a few putts dropping I could really have changed the outcome.

"I always enjoy my trips to South Africa and can’t wait to play. I’ve worked hard over Christmas and I’m now looking forward to getting my year off to a fast start and putting myself into the Ryder Cup picture."