Clarke's new expedition on PGA TOUR begins at The McGladrey ClassicDarren Clarke, 45, is planning to play a full-time schedule on the PGA TOUR in 2013-14.November 05, 2013
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- The last time Darren Clarke played full time on the PGA TOUR was 2006. So why return now at age 45?
“I’ve almost had enough of the long hauls all over Asia and all that sort of stuff,” said Clarke, who is exempt this season because of his 2011 Open Championship win. “Not that it’s bad, but coming over here is certainly a lot easier for me from a scheduling point of view.
“The PGA TOUR is the biggest investor in the world. Europe is my home turf, but it’s a great opportunity to come over here and play.”
Clarke hasn’t won anywhere since hoisting the Claret Jug at Royal St. George’s, but the Northern Irishman looked refreshed as he hit balls on the driving range on a blustery afternoon at Sea Island Golf Club in advance of this week’s McGladrey Classic.
While Clarke has fallen to 283rd in the world, he has reason to feel good about his game -- he’s coming off ties for 12th and second in his last two starts in Europe and China.
“I just want to go out and enjoy myself,” Clarke said. “I’ve traveled all over the world for a long time and I’ve had a great time doing it. It’s almost like starting over.”
The journey will be made easier with a home in the Bahamas and a base in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., though Clarke added that he will maintain his European Tour membership as well.
"It will be difficult," Clarke said of playing both tours. "But it is something I will try to do. I will see how I get on with it. But my first commitment is to the PGA TOUR, and I have to get my tournaments in on the TOUR since I became a member again."
In addition to this week’s event, Clarke said he will play next week’s OHL Classic at Mayakoba in Mexico. Clarke then plans to take the entire month of December off before returning at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, followed by the Northern Trust Open and the entire Florida swing.
Clarke has won just two other times on the PGA TOUR, in 2003 at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational (then the NEC Invitational) and the 2000 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
His best years on TOUR came a decade ago, when he racked up 14 top 10s between 2003 and 2005, including four third-place finishes and a runner-up.
But Clarke was limited to just 11 starts in 2006 because of the passing of his first wife, Heather, who succumbed to cancer that August.
He struggled the following year, making just four cuts in 10 starts with zero finishes in the top 25. It was the last year he made double-digit starts on the PGA TOUR and he spent the next handful of years playing mostly in Europe.
But he was happy to be back in the U.S. on Tuesday. Said Clarke: “Never too old to start again.”