When the R&A’s Peter Dawson shot down hopes of an imminent return of The Open to Royal Portrush, he pointed to a long list of improvements that needed to be made.
“The practice ground would need a lot of work at Portrush in my own estimation,” the R&A Chief Executive said in 2012.
Dungannon’s Darren Clarke has been wearing the place out since he went to live in the town a few years ago and while it’s not exactly what Mr Dawson had in mind, it looks as though the 2011 Open champion’s intense practice regime could prompt some construction work.
The European Tour star already has his own practice tee at the far end of the practice ground and Royal Portrush’s list of winter course improvement work reveals that he now wants to pay for the club to erect a roof there to protect him from the elements.
Whether is offer is taken up remains to be seen but it’s clear that Clarke has no intention of easing off on his practice regime as he prepares to return to the PGA Tour for the 2013-14 season.
Runner up to Charl Schwartzel in China two weeks ago, the 45-year old will make two appearaces on the PGA Tour before the end of the year.
Having failed to qualify for next week’s WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, Clarke will instead head for Davis Love’s McGladrey Classic at Sea Island.
The pair have had a long friendship, which AP’s Doug Ferguson points out, is marked by two episodes of sportsmanship in 2004:
During the semifinals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, Love rallied to force extra holes. The greens were so bumpy at La Costa that Love, not wanting to see the match end with a missed putt, conceded par putts from 4- to 5-foot range on consecutive holes. Love won in 21 holes.
“Later that year, in the Ryder Cup, Love put his tee shot on 18 in the rough. He could have widened his stance for a high cut shot and taken relief because his foot would have been on a sprinkler. He chose to play the ball where it was because such a shot would have been impractical. They halved the match.
“He said I was honest with my drop in the rough,” Love recalled last month at Sea Island. “Darren is just one of those guys like Freddie (Couples). Everywhere he plays, people like watching him.”
Love still isn’t sure how Clarke decided on Sea Island. He said Scott Reid, the McGladrey Classic tournament director, heard a rumor Clarke might be playing and asked Love to try to close the deal. Too late. Turns out Clarke already had committed as Love was sending him a text.
Clarke has also committed to playing in the PGA Tour’s OHL Classic at Mayakoba the week after next when the European Tour is in Turkey for the Turkish Airlines Open.
By the time he gets back he should know if he will have a roof over his head at Royal Portrush.