Darren Clarke has defeated his share of demons in a rollercoaster career.
Now he must slay the course Ben Hogan called “The Monster” in this week’s US PGA if he is to continue his brave bid for a sixth Ryder Cup cap.
After a nightmare run in July, “Big D” returned to the world’s top 100 with a sensational share of sixth place behind pal Vijay Singh in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone.
And thanks to a cheque for €140,243, he is up to 23rd in the Ryder Cup Points race and within striking distance of an automatic place in Nick Faldo’s side.
After closing with a bogey free 67 to finish just three shots adrift of new world No 4 Singh, Clarke can make the team on merit if he finishes first or second in the final major of season at the course where Europe beat the US in the 2004 Ryder Cup.
Looking forward to the challenge, Clarke said: “Oakland Hill bring back good memories for me from the Ryder Cup. I know what I have to do to make the team and that's play well.
"If I don't play well, I won't make the team. But I have three events left to get there. We'll have to wait and see."
The good news is that his play from tee to green looks as good as ever and if he can roll home the putts on the slick Detroit greens, he can motor his way into the side to face Paul Azinger's top 12 at Valhalla next month.
Clarke said; "I played lovely. I played really, really well today. I couldn't buy a putt for the last eight holes. I kept giving myself chance after chance after chance. I kept hitting it reasonably close and had really good putts but they just didn't go in.
“I played well all week, three-over par after the first ten holes on the first day wasn't the greatest start, but I'm pretty pleased I battled on and got myself back in there again.”
Up 18 places to 87th in the world, Clarke still has a chance of getting a captain’s pick but knows he must haul himself up to the fringes of the team with top drawer performances in his last three counting events - the US PGA, the Dutch Open and the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles.
The pressure is on and it’s now up to Clarke to perform better than he did last month, when he missed the cut in the Paris and Loch Lomond and got disqualified in the European Open after another lacklustre display.
After a brilliant 65 at Firestone on Saturday, Clarke confessed that he was trying to hard to perform and failed miserably.
But he is now just €602,393 behind 10th ranked Justin Rose in the battle for his Ryder Cup place with dapper Dubliner Paul McGinley another €30,000 adrift after finishing tied 23rd in Ohio.
Set to 'celebrate' his 40th birthday next week, he knows that he must perform to convince skipper Faldo that he deserves his place in the side.
He said: “If I do (perform), he may consider me for a pick, and if I don't, I'll be watching it on TV like everybody else. I'm just trying to play as well as I can and we'll see what happens.
“I have to play well if I even want to be considered for a pick. That's the way I look at it. Those are the facts, and that's what I have to do.
“If I do play well, if I do start playing well like I did today, I think I would be an addition to the team. And if I don't play well, I would not be. I would not expect a pick. I just want to play as well as I can and see where it takes me.”
Clarke’s putting has been his achilles heel throughout his career but he feels that a return to his old putting style has worked wonders for his confidence.
Using a wider stance and higher hands, he is brimming with confidence and looking forward to his only major appearance this year.
He said “It's been great, I've missed this sort of event all year, the majors and these World Golf Championships events.
“It's been great back playing them again and I felt very comfortable this week, and this is where I want to play, this is what I want to do. I want to get more opportunities to play like I have done this week.”
Legend Hogan dubbed Oakland Hills a “monster” when he won the 1951 US Open there but Clarke can’t wait, explaining: “I’ve good memories there. They put in some new tees to fox us a little. But it'll be fun.”
Snazzy dresser Walter Hagen was the club’s first professional, winning 11 majors and five US PGA’s.
Clarke could easily be considered the 21st century version of Hagen. All that's missing is the major and the time is right to strike.