Darren Clarke wants to scale the heights as a player again by becoming king of the mountains in the Swiss Alps this week. The Ulsterman joins fellow Ryder Cup vice-captain Paul McGinley in the Omega European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre bidding to edge closer to the all important top-15 in the Race to Dubai standings.
Ready to get stuck in again after the stress of Sunday’s Ryder Cup wildcard selections, Clarke said: “The US PGA put an end to any chance I had of making the Ryder Cup team but there is still a lot to play for this season.
“Apart from the way I finished my round on Friday morning at Whistling Straits, I played as good as I have ever played from tee to green.
“I just had a stone cold putter and couldn’t buy a putt from anywhere but that’s the way it goes. I will keep going and hopefully I will win a few again.”
Clarke, 42, hasn’t won since he captured his 12th European Tour title in the KLM Open in Holland almost two years ago.
That was his second win of the 2008 season but he still failed to earn a Ryder Cup wildcard from skipper Nick Faldo.
The Ulsterman is disappointed that he hasn’t made Colin Montgomerie’s European side for this year’s matches at Celtic Manor, but he’s confident that his game is still good enough to merit a place in some of the game’s biggest events next year.
Reflecting on his failure to add to his five Ryder Cup caps this year, Clarke said: “I’m disappointed I haven’t made the team this time but my form came a little bit late.
“I’m going to keep going and try to win again shortly and get myself up the rankings so I can get myself in position to make the team next time.”
Ranked 99th in the world, Clarke will earn a US Masters return if he gets back into the world’s top 50 before the end of the year.
But he can also book an early place in The Open at Sandwich and the US Open at Congressional by finishing the season inside the top-15 in the Race to Dubai standings.
Currently 26th in the Race to Dubai standings, Clarke knows he can also book a ticket to the WGC-CA Championship at Doral by finishing inside the top 20 in the European Money list and he plans to play next week’s KLM Open and Vivendi Cup in Paris before heading to Celtic Manor to assume his duties as one of Montgomerie’s four Ryder Cup assistants.
Clarke and McGinley (136th in the R2D) are joined in Switzerland by Shane Lowry (51st), Peter Lawrie (45th), Gareth Maybin (49th) and Michael Hoey (91st) while just two members of Montgomerie’s 12-man Ryder Cup team will be in action
They are Spanish veteran Miguel Angel Jiménez and Italian star Edoardo Molinari, who will be trying to follow his Ryder Cup wildcard selection by becoming the first player to win three times this season.
Now 15th in the world following his stunning win at Gleneagles last week, the Turin native is the highest ranked player in the field ahead of Open champion Louis Oosthuizen.
Congratulated by Constantino Rocca on his Ryder Cup selection earlier this week, Molinari has been grouped with Australian great Greg Norman, 55, who is playing for the first time following a shoulder operation last September.
Oosthuizen, meanwhile, partners 46-year old Jiménez, who competes in the Swiss Alps for the 22nd successive time and said: “I never miss that tournament.”