Clarke targets points and pints in Australian Open

Darren Clarke wants to celebrate world ranking points with pints in this week’s Australian Open.

The Ulsterman, 40, has made a whirlwind trip to Royal Sydney in an effort to finish the year inside the world’s top 50 and guarantee his place in next year’s Masters.

And he confessed that he won’t need to many excuses to down a few celebratory drinks with his Australia-based Irish fans if he takes the title on Sunday night.

Clarke beamed: “I’ve been getting emails from a few Irish lads over here so I’ll be asking them where you can get the best pint of Guinness in town.

"Hopefully I can play well and give them something to shout and roar about. We don't need any excuse to have an extra pint or two."

Forced to cancel his 2006 Australian Open appearance following the death of his wife, Clarke hopes to make the most of the gruelling 10,000 mile trip.

But the world No 66 hasn't quite worked out whether a win over local stars like Geoff Ogilvy, Adam Scott and Rod Pampling will get him over the line for Augusta.

Clarke said: “The system is far too complicated for a silly Irishman like myself. It's a long way to come for one week but I'm chasing world ranking points. I want to get back into that top-50 again, and that's the main reason why I'm here.

"I set out at the start of this year to get myself up the world rankings. I have done that but not as far as I want to get.  I want to be sitting down at Christmas knowing I am in the top 50 and back into Augusta.

“Finishing in the top 15 in the European Order of Merit this year gets me into the other majors but Augusta is the one I am not into. It would be much nicer opening a nice bottle of red wine on Christmas Day knowing I am in Augusta.

"I believe the wind blows a little bit here which is what I'm used to, growing up and playing in Ireland. The course is fantastic and it’s a great field.”

The field could be even better next year with the organisers currently trying to tempt No 1 Tiger Woods to make the trip.

Meanwhile, Ireland’s tiger cub Rory McIlroy will be hoping to consolidate his place in the world’s top 50 at the Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek in South Africa.

The Hollywood teenager, 19, is ranked 49th as he seeks his maiden pro win alongside Lee Westwood and Ireland’s Damien McGrane, Gary Murphy, Gareth Maybin, Michael Hoey and Jonny Caldwell.

Clarke and McIlroy will go head to head when they round off their seasons in the South African Open near Cape Town next week.