Darren Clarke says that Padraig Harrington’s Open victory has inspired him to work even harder to get back to the top.
And that will make him a dangerous animal at Oakland Hills, where a maiden major win would send him rocketing into Nick Faldo’s Ryder Cup team.
Amazed by Harrington’s incredible back nine performance to win at Royal Birkdale, Clarke finished sixth in the WGC Bridgestone Invitational last week and confesse can’t wait to run with the tops dogs again.
He said: “I watched Padraig win and the golf he played on that back nine on Sunday was sensational. I mean it was incredible to watch.
“After the struggle that he’d gone through, to be as mentally strong as he was to play the golf he played down the stretch was fantastic to see. It was thoroughly deserved.
“Part of watching has been tough but a lot of it has been egging me on a little to work a bit harder.”
Tied for sixth in the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone after weekend rounds of 65 and 67, five-time Ryder Cup player Clarke admitted that he has missed the excitement of the world’s top events.
After plummeting to 241st in the world earlier this year, he missed the Masters, opted out of US Open qualifying and then failed to qualify for the Open for the first time in 17 years.
He also failed to make it into any of the WGC events until he landed an invitation for Firestone as a member of the 2006 European Ryder Cup team.
A winner in Shanghai earlier this year and back to 87th in the world after his Firestone finish, he said: “I've missed this sort of event all year, the majors and the World Golf Championships events. It's been great back playing them again and I felt very comfortable last week in Akron.
“This is where I want to play, this is what I want to do. I want to get more opportunities to play like I did at Firestone.
Clarke sweated his way round Oakland Hills in practice and found the course to be an even bigger monster than it was in the 2004 Ryder Cup.
And while his life has changed since then with the death of his wife in 2006, Clarke believes he is a better and more level headed player than ever.
He said: “Things have changed obviously since the last time I was here. I wasn’t here on my own, was I? I am a better player now than I was then, even though my scores and my golf wouldn’t quite suggest it.
“My swing is better. I’m a bit more calm than I have been. All round, I’m probably a little bit better.
“I’ve missed the big tournaments. These are the ones I want to play, I enjoy it and that’s what I hope to do again this week.
“I have good memories of Oakland Hills but the par threes are lot more difficult that they were in the Ryder Cup. Obviously the rough is a little thicker that it was then and the greens are obviously they are very, very tricky because of the slopes.
“Ryder Cup? I’ve still got to play well. If I don’t play really well in the next few weeks, there’s no way I would merit a pick. At the end of the day, I’ve got to try and play as well as I can this week and we shall see what happens.
“Last week I was very calm and relaxed and wandered around the golf course and invariably that’s when I play as well as I can - whenever I take everything much slower, when I hit it and find it and hit it again.
“I don’t always get myself into that way of doing things but it is when I play my best. I did it last week and I hope to do it again this week and see where it takes me.”