Darren Clarke will swap what his manager described as the “soul destroying” grind of the European Tour backwater for two rounds with a couple of fellow 40-somethings in faraway Malaysia on the Asian Tour.
Rather than tee it up in the European Tour co-sanctioned Volvo China Open, a tournament with a prize fund of €2.46m, the 44-year old has managed to shake off the injury that kept him out of the Masters to play in the $750,000 CIMB Niaga Indonesian Masters in Jakarta.
Drawn with 43-year old Thongchai Jaidee and 44-year old Michael Campbell, the 2011 Open champion is one of the big names in Malaysia at an event that has also attracted current Open champion Ernie Els of “wheelbarrow” fame.
Now ranked 255th in the world, Clarke will now throw himself into the big summer events with the BMW PGA at Wentworth, the Irish Open, the US Open and The Open forming the backbone of his schedule.
It will certainly be interesting to see if he can recapture even a semblance of his old form in his first appearance since he was 63rd in the Tshwane Open in India nearly five weeks ago.
Forced to skip the Masters after pulling his hamstring playing tennis with his kids while on holiday in the Bahamas, Clarke knows he will be rusty.
“I’ve been practising hard at home but it is a little bit different compared to playing in Asia,” he said. “My swing is OK but I’m still a bit rusty.
“I haven’t played since March. It was no choice of my own but unfortunately it is the way it is.”
As for his injury, which he picked up a month ago, he said: “I was playing tennis with my kids and I thought I was 24 and not 44! Unfortunately I had to pull-out from Augusta and Korea last week.
“It has been a frustrating period. I’m not good at sitting and not doing anything. I’ve had intensive treatment on my hamstring and it is fine now.
“I couldn’t do anything. I could hardly walk, hit golf balls or putt. I had to sit at home and watch (The Masters).
“I think Adam Scott was good after what happened at The Open last year. The way Angel Cabrera played was fantastic as well. Augusta is a very special place and I missed being there.
“I only watched the last round on television because if I watched every day, then I would have been frustrated. I was supposed to be there but I couldn’t.”
Writing on his blog shortly after the Masters, Clarke explained: “My schedule this year for one reason or another has been intermittent and I’m desperately keen to get playing - I’m getting older even though I don’t think I am - just about sums it up!!! This was just a silly accident having a fun time with my kids.”
His manager, Chubby Chandler, wants him to take up his PGA Tour card again, explaining at Augusta: ““It must be soul-destroying for him to get on a practice tee in Europe with a whole load of young lads from Iceland and Finland. It’s a hard thing. At least here over here he knows the guys and they all know him.”
Whether that will happen next year remains to be seen. What the Dungannon man needs is a run of events to find some form.
As for the CIMB Niaga Indonesian Masters, Clarke revealed that he has picked the brains of stablemate Lee Westwood, who won the event by two strokes from Thaworn Wiratchant last year.
“I’ve had some good time in Asia,” said Clarke. “I’ve missed the heat here as well. I haven’t played here before but Lee has told me bits and pieces about the golf course.
“The greens and fairways are sensational here. It is set up tough but fair as well. It will be a good, fair and stern test.”
While Clarke is in Indonesia, Paul McGiney, Peter Lawrie, Damien McGrane, Michael Hoey and Gareth Maybin are at Binhai Lake Golf Club in Tianjin for the Volvo China Open.
They are joined in xx by China’s Ye Wo-cheng, who will become The European Tour’s youngest competitor when he tees up aged just 12 years and 242 days; shaving nearly a full year off the previous record held by the Masters sensation Guan Tianlang.
Meanwhile, on the Challenge Tour, Simon Thornton, Gareth Shaw and Alan Dunbar all in action this week at the Montecchia Golf Open in Padua.