No offence to Johannesburg's Neil Schietekat's 62 but a cracking, eight under par 63 by Darren Clarke in the Joburg Open has got to be good news for European golf.

In 2008 Clarke won twice, didn't qualify automatically for Nick Faldo's Ryder Cup team, didn't get a pick and didn't say a critical word about the captain. In fact, he was brutally honest about a month before Faldo made his choices public. Asked at Oakland Hills if he'd pick himself if her were captain, Clarke said: "Probably not." It was typical Clarke.

Not only does he wears his mood on his countenance like a particularly scary Halloween mask, he's his own harshest critic.

He is seemingly held together by Guinness, cigar smoke, cashmere, fifty pound notes, fishing line, generosity, rudeness, explosions of bad temper, great golf, bad putting, great putting, bad golf, impatience, cappuccino, talent and every luxury known to man.

He's 41 but looks older and yet you feel that his presence, his charisma, would be a huge asset to what could be a very young European Ryder Cup team in Wales. Think of Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer, Ross Fisher, Simon Dyson, Graeme McDowell, Francesco Molinari, Edoardo Molinari, Ross McGowan, Alex Noren, Oliver Wilson and Co and you can see why he might be a talismanic figure in the team room and the perfect foil for Lee Westwood in foursomes or fourballs.

Clarke had eight birdies in his lowest round since he shot his European Tour record-equalling 60 in the 1999 European Open at The K Club. He didn't win that one either, funnily enough, as Westwood stole the title from under his nose on the final round.

“I hit it close a lot of times, and the only putt I really holed was on 17 from about 20 feet,” said Clarke. Oh-oh. I was hoping to hear tales of putts diving into the hole from all parts. Still, Clarke striping the ball down the pins is a good sign. A great sign even. If he's happy with how he's hitting the ball, he's as good as anyone in the world. Not even Tiger can live with him when he's got every element of his game on song.

Of course, if Clarke is to make Colin Montgomerie's team on merit and earn his sixth Ryder Cup cap, he will have to win at least twice this year. And win big.

If he's close to making the team, you get the feeling that Montgomerie will give him a pick. They may have had their differences but together, no other pairing would command more respect from their peers in a Ryder Cup than Clarke and Montgomerie.