Globetrotting takes its toll as Clarke falls short at Open
Ryder Cup captain is off the pace with 30th-placed finish at Australian Open
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