By Brian Keogh
Veteran Darren Clarke has urged Ryder Cup skipper Nick Faldo to pick him for his vast experience.
The Ulsterman, 40, surged into the reckoning for one of two wildcards thanks to his impressive four-shot win in Sunday’s KLM Open.
Now Clarke is hoping to put in another top performance in this week’s final counting event at Gleneagles and hope that his five Ryder Cup appearances and rock solid partnership with pal Lee Westwood will convince Faldo to hand him a ticket to Valhalla.
Asked for two reasons why Faldo should hand him his sixth cap, Clarke said: “Firstly there is my record with Lee in the past. Our play together has been pretty good in all the Ryder Cups.
“Secondly, there is experience. We have rookies in the team at the moment in eighth, ninth and tenth position. So a bit of experience in the team room goes a long way.
“Also, I am playing well. But at the end of the day it is up to Nick and he will make his decision on who he thinks will be best for the team.
“If he decides to pick me I am delighted, because I am desperate to be part of the team. If not, I can also understand that and I have no problems whatsoever.”
Sunday’s win brought nothing but positives for Clarke, who jumped 34 places to 56th in the world rankings - a massive improvement on 225th at the start of the season.
A top 50 ranking at the end of the year will get him into all next year’s majors and World Golf Championships.
But he must now be regarded as a virtual certainty to land a captain’s pick for the second Ryder Cup in a row thanks to his record with stablemate Westwood.
Clarke and Westwood have team up together in three Ryder Cups, winning six and losing just two of eight matches in foursomes and fourballs.
At the K Club in 2006, skipper Ian Woosnam handed Clarke a wildcard just weeks after the death of his wife Heather.
And the big Ulsterman came up trumps, winning twice in fourballs with Westwood before seeing off Zach Johnson in the singles for a 100 percent record.
Clarke’s win in Holland has “thrown the cat among the pigeons,” according to wildcard rival Paul Casey, who also needs a pick from Faldo.
And while Clarke and Casey are the favourites to get the nod, Faldo could also be forced to consider Colin Montgomerie, Ian Poulter or Dubliner Paul McGinley.
That’s why Clarke is determined to put in another top performance in this week's Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles - a course he slammed last year as unsuitable to host the 2014 Ryder Cup.
He said of the Centenary Course at Gleneagles: “I think it is unbelievable they have chosen this to stage the 2014 match.
"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. I just can't see it here.”
On Sunday he changed his tune, explaining: “I love it! I know what I said last year about it and the condition of it, but I am now in the position where I have to go next week and try to play really well on it.
"We'll see. I stand by my comments from last year, but we did also have horrendous conditions last year with the wind and rain and the course wasn't seen in the right light.
“The people there have admitted that they will have to make a few changes before the Ryder Cup goes there. I don't throw criticism around lightly. I try to be constructive.
“Gleneagles is one of my favourite places in the world. It's beautiful, but the course didn't light my fire last year. I am sure I will look at it in a much more favourable light next week.
“I have got to keep on playing the way I have been playing and hope I have another good week again.
“It is up to the captain to make the choices and if he thinks other people are more suited to pick to make it a better team, then that is fine with me.
“I am going to do my best and hopefully Nick will take a look at me.
“The Ryder Cup has been every special to me. I have played quite a few and had a good record playing with Lee (Westwood) and I enjoy it. I will be disappointed if I don’t make this team but I haven’t played that well all year until recently.
“I want to be part of the team in Valhalla and I will do everything I can to try and make sure I am there.”
Clarke described his 19th career win as lot more enjoyable than his BMW Asian Open victory last April, when thoughts of his late wife made it difficult to get over the winning line.
He said: “This one was a little bit easier. I got a few demons out of my way earlier this year and I felt very comfortable all week, not just in the final round.
“I played well, hit a lot of very good shots and enjoyed this one an awful lot more.
“I gave myself two weeks to play well to force Nick to take a look at me. So far, part one of the two-week plan has come together because I have played well and managed to win.
“Hopefully I will have a good week this week and if Nick decides that I am worthy of a pick, then fantastic.”
Latest leading places in the European Ryder Cup table after the KLM Open and The Barclays (top five on world list on August 31 qualify, plus next five on European list. Captain Nick Faldo then adds two wild cards. Capitals indicate players currently in qualifying positions):
1 PADRAIG HARRINGTON 343.03, 2 SERGIO GARCIA 278.46, 3 LEE WESTWOOD 266.18, 4 HENRIK STENSON 245.13, 5 ROBERT KARLSSON 204.76, 6 Miguel Angel Jimenez 202.35, 7 Justin Rose 188.34, 8 Ian Poulter 183.37, 9 Graeme McDowell 175.81, 10 Martin Kaymer 152.17, 11 Luke Donald 134.66, 12 Daniel Chopra 134.05
1 Harrington 2,676,219, 2 Westwood 2,547,952, 3 Karlsson 2,183,494, 4 MIGUEL ANGEL JIMENEZ 2,092,170, 5 Stenson 2,018,162, 6 GRAEME McDOWELL 1,993,608, 7 JUSTIN ROSE 1,437,061, 8 SOREN HANSEN 1,421,745, 9 OLIVER WILSON 1,386,385, 10 Martin Kaymer 1,369,093, 11 Ian Poulter 1,315,024, 12 Ross Fisher 1,294,055, 13 Nick Dougherty 1,208,366, 16 Paul Casey 1010232.28, 17 Darren Clarke 1009788.62, 20 Colin Montgomerie 908807.38, 21 Paul McGinley 907974.81.