Darren Clarke handled a media frenzy at Fancourt on Wednesday after he was announced as Team Europe’s captain for the 2016 Ryder Cup, but he came to this week’s Dimension Data Pro-Am with victory in mind.
“One of my priorities this year is to win again,” he said. “It’s been nearly four years since I lifted the Claret Jug and I just want to get back into the winner’s circle again. South Africa has always been a favourite stop and the country is very special.”
The Northern Irishman has been involved in seven Ryder Cups, six of which Team Europe has won, but his last professional title came at the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St. George’s.
“I am naturally extremely proud to be selected as European Ryder Cup captain for 2016,” said Clarke, who has played in five Ryder Cups and served as vice-captain in 2010 and 2012. “The Ryder Cup has been a massive part of my life and my career, so to have the chance to lead Europe next year is a huge honour.”
A three-year winless streak has made the Ulsterman determined to lift silverware and with that in mind he has returned to the Di Data Pro-Am, which he won in 2001.
The R4.5-million tournament was originally hosted at Sun City, but in 2010 the venue changed to Fancourt, which boasts three superb championship courses. Clarke was excited to tee up at one of the signature events of the Sunshine Tour.
His spirits were high ahead of the tournament, which puts the professionals through their paces over one round at each of the Montagu, Outeniqua and The Links courses. There is a cut after 54 holes, followed by a final round played on Montagu.
The style of the event suits Clarke’s personality. He’s easy-going enough to favour a pro-am format, while his experience will help him to stay calm while shifting from course to course each day.
It’s a special week for captain Clarke, who was visibly relieved to get the Ryder Cup call-up.
“I am lucky to have played and worked under some fantastic captains in my seven Ryder Cups to date, and I look forward to the challenge of trying to follow in their footsteps and help Europe to a fourth consecutive Ryder Cup victory at Hazeltine next year,” he said.
“It’s a humbling thing to be chosen as Ryder Cup captain and I’ve still got a bit of form on the golf course, so I’ll certainly be in high spirits out there this week,” he concluded.