Clarke backs John Daly for Irish Open invite

“Wild Thing” John Daly smashed a spectator's camera into a tree as he crashed to an opening 78 in the Australian Open.

But playing partner Darren Clarke believes that that controversial American would be a huge draw if he lands an invite for next year’s new-look Irish Open at Mount Juliet.

Six years after leaving Australia in disgrace after dumping his putter in a lake, Daly saw red when a golf fan tried to take his picture from close range.

Refusing to comment on Daly's latest antics after a level par 72, Clarke said: "John is still a big draw in worldwide golf and he's still got a lot of game left."

Now a member of the European Tour, Daly is hoping to play up to 18 events on sponsors invitations this season, including the Irish Open.

Clarke added: "Personally, John is great and I very much enjoy his company and he would definitely be a benefit competing full time on the European Tour, and hopefully we can see him competing in next year's Irish Open.

"I've known for quite some time about the new sponsorship deal and the event returning to Mount Juliet but it's just fantastic news now that it's official."

Clarke triple bogeyed his second hole, the 11th, but battled back to shoot a level par round that left him seven shots off the pace at Royal Sydney.

But his efforts were overshadowed by playing partner Daly, 42, who reacted angrily when a fan stuck a camera in his face as he played the ninth hole.

After finishing with a bogey to trail leaders Stephen Dartnall, Mathew Goggin and Ewan Porter by 13 shots, Daly issued a statement on his latest blow up.

Daly said: "I was looking to take a drop and the camera was six inches away from my face.

"If I was 10-under par I would have felt the same. My eyes are still burning from the flash of the camera.

"I feel it was very rude to put a camera that close to anybody's face in any situation. The guy that had the camera had already taken a dozen shots at close range."