Glo­be­trot­ting takes its toll as Clarke falls short at Open

Ry­der Cup cap­tain is off the pace with 30th-placed fin­ish at Aus­tralian Open

The Herald - Sport - - GOLF/ATHLETICS - BERNIE MCGUIRE

WHILE World num­ber one Jor­dan Spi­eth is now count­ing the days to his Christ­mas sea­son break, Euro­pean Ry­der Cup cap­tain Dar­ren Clarke con­tin­ues a whirl­wind eight na­tion, three con­ti­nent golf­ing cru­sade.

Clarke jet­ted out of Syd­ney Mon­day morn­ing lo­cal time bound for Viet­nam and this week’s penul­ti­mate Asian Tour event be­fore then head­ing to Bangkok next week and the Tour’s sea­son fi­nale the Thai­land Masters.

Clarke was mobbed at ev­ery turn by au­to­graph and selfie hunters at the com­ple­tion of his Aus­tralian Open cam­paign with a last-round 76 to share 30th be­hind win­ner Matt Jones.

The 35-year-old Jones, who has been a mem­ber of the host Aus­tralian Club for 20 years, de­nied the dou­ble ma­jor­win­ning Spi­eth by a stroke from a suc­cess­ful de­fence of the ti­tle.

In con­trast to Clarke, Spi­eth was head­ing east on a 15,000km jour­ney to the Ba­hamas where he will de­fend the Tiger Woods-hosted Hero World Chal­lenge.

But af­ter com­ing so close to join­ing Jack Nick­laus and Gary Player as the only non-Aus­tralians to win back-to­back Aus­tralian Open ti­tles, Spi­eth is clearly looking for­ward to a wellde­served fes­tive break.

“It has been a long sea­son but then it’s also been a very tri­umphant year,” he said. “But then I only wish I would have taken more time dur­ing last year’s off sea­son.

“It was tough the way the dates fell this year but I am go­ing to try hard and soak in as much as I can as from the end of next week be­fore head­ing out to Hawaii in what will be the long­est break I will have had this year.”

Clarke ended his round with a rous­ing 15-foot birdie putt from be­hind the flag, which ar­rived on the back of a triple-bo­gey seven at the previous hole.

That tested the pa­tience of the 47-year-old, whose ball was im­peded by a pine cone on the penul­ti­mate hole.

“It was a nice way to fin­ish with a birdie but I just got to­tally pun­ished at 17 as I couldn’t move the pine cone as my ball was rest­ing against it,” he said.

“Then when I played my sec­ond shot the ball bounced off a tree and re­mained in the tree line, but over­all I played nicely for the four days and I have re­ally en­joyed the op­por­tu­nity to come back to Aus­tralia and com­pete.

“So given how well I feel I am play­ing I am looking for­ward to be head­ing to Viet­nam for a first time and then back to Al­mata Spring in Thai­land where I’ve com­peted be­fore.

“So de­spite what hap­pened at 17 I am all right and I still want to play as I feel fresh and I’ve got plenty still in the tank.”

How­ever, Clarke’s jour­ney north from Aus­tralia does con­tinue a whirl­wind few months for Europe’s Ry­der Cup cap­tain.

So far this month the Ul­ster­man has com­peted in the Por­tu­gal Masters, at­tended the Royal Portrush 2019 Open Cham­pi­onship an­nounce­ment, played in a MENA Tour event in Dubai, re­turned to Kuala Lumpur to in­spect Jan­uary’s host EurA­sia Cup course, tee’d-up in the Turk­ish Air­lines Open, at­tended Ry­der Cup meet­ings in Dubai dur­ing the re­cent DP World Tour Cham­pi­onship be­fore trav­el­ling to Syd­ney.

“I have had a lot on my plate of late but I’ve got some great peo­ple around me so I’m fine,” he said.

“But then I do have about three weeks off af­ter Thai­land to spend Christ­mas in the Ba­hamas with the fam­ily, so I’m looking for­ward to that.

“Then it’s back to Malaysia for the EurA­sia Cup in Jan­uary be­fore start­ing to get well into the deep end with the Ry­der Cup.”

And Clarke was head­ing to Asia with the Ry­der Cup among his lug­gage hav­ing been in­stru­men­tal in tak­ing the gleam­ing gold tro­phy to Aus­tralia for a first time, as will now be the sce­nario in jour­ney­ing to Viet­nam and Thai­land.

JET-SET­TER: Dar­ren Clarke is set to visit eight na­tions across three con­ti­nents dur­ing a whirl­wind trip

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