This week, fans will witness the return of one of golf's most prestigious tournaments, the Ryder Cup. The famous event pits teams of professional golfers from the United States and Europe against each other. It is one of the most highly anticipated events in the world of golf and is known for its intense competition and drama.
This year, the event will be held at the Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Rome. The event in Rome will take place from September 29 to October 1
Both the current champions, the United States and Europe, have named their teams for the tournament in Italy.
Team United States Ryder Cup Captain Zach Johnson announced his team a few weeks ago. He included stellar names like Patrick Cantlay, Scottie Scheffler, Brooks Koepka, and Jordan Spieth in his team. Meanwhile, Team Europe has included the usual suspects of Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Matt Fitzpatrick, Shane Lowry, and many others.
For golf purists, there is nothing quite like the Ryder Cup. It holds the same significance for players from the past, present, and future.
One man who knows more than most about playing in the famous competition is former European captain Darren Clarke. Tyrone native Clarke played an instrumental role in Europe's 2006 win at the K Club in Ireland and is best remembered for the emotional scenes at the event that year.
Clarke's Ryder Cup experience in 2006 was a bittersweet experience due to the loss of his late wife Heather Clarke, six weeks prior. She had died of breast cancer that same year.
Although Clarke did not want to participate in the 2006 event because of the understandable circumstances, Heather's dying wish was for Clarke to compete in the Ryder Cup nonetheless.
Darren Clarke's emotional walk to the first tee at the K Club 👏
Clarke accepted a wildcard pick for Ian Woosnam's team on the request of his late wife, Heather, who had lost her long battle with cancer just a few weeks before the 2006 Ryder Cup 🏌♂#RyderCupGreatestMoments pic.twitter.com/bWszDhD6FS
— Sky Sports Golf (@SkySportsGolf) June 3, 2022
European captain Ian Woosnam chose Clarke as one of his two wild cards, and he contributed three points from three matches to Europe's victory. He was embraced by members of the European and U.S. teams after he finished the tournament. Clarke's tears and performance at the K Club in 2006 will forever be etched into Ryder Cup history.
Clarke sat down with The Irish Post this week to discuss that famous day in 2006 and also revealed what it is like to be European captain in 2016.
"To roll all of those emotions into one was one of the hardest, highest, and lowest weeks I've ever had in golf. Anyone who has been through my scenario, a lot of people have, will know what I was going through," said Clarke.
"I think that my late wife Heather the week before she passed away said to me, 'I want you to play, I want you to play.' It was her wish that I would play, and I did go to play, and the fact that it was in Ireland at home in front of fans, with all the support from fans helped me get through it."
Clarke's week ended on a high note as Europe achieved the decisive point just before Johnson generously conceded a short putt and his match to Clarke on the 16th. Then the tears began to flow. Clarke explained further about his experience that day.
"I literally stood on that first tee, and I've said it before and I'll say it again, I had no idea if I was going to miss the ball, like your average 36-handicapper. I didn't know what was going to happen. I had a 320-yarder that went down the top," he added.
"It was a very hard, emotional week, but again I went back to the scenario that Heather wanted me to play and wanted me there. My teammates were unbelievable that week, and in turn, I didn't want to let my teammates down either. I didn't want to be there as a tribute. Thankfully, the golf gods were on my side. It turned out to be an enormous week for me. It was one where I'll never have another time with that level of emotion again."
In 2011, Clarke won his first European Tour title since August 2008 with a three-stroke victory over Chris Wood and David Lynn in the Iberdrola Open. Clarke dedicated his victory to his two children and late wife Heather.
Speaking in 2011, the Tyrone native said, "In terms of what's going through my heart, there's obviously somebody who is watching from up above there, and I know she'd be very proud of me. But I think she'd be more proud of my two boys and them at home watching more than anything else. It's been a long journey to get here."
Clarke admitted that his victory in 2011, to The Irish Post this week, was a breeze compared to his heroics in 2006.
"After 2006 and that Ryder Cup, coming down the stretch in the Major was a walk in the park. 2006 was the hardest I've had to do, but at the same time, it's hard to put it all into words."
Five years after this, Clarke became Europe's Ryder Cup captain for the 2016 event at Hazeltine National Golf Club. Europe were beaten 17-11 by the Americans, but for Clarke, being captain was something that he will never forget.
"It's a huge honour for anyone to be Ryder Cup captain. It doesn't come around too often. I think it's a mark of respect for what you've achieved in both the European tour and the world game," he explained.
"I was very honoured to be Europe's captain. Obviously, we got our butts kicked in Hazeltine, and they played a lot better than we did. Still, sometimes I look back and think what I could have done differently and did everything I could have possibly done to help the team win, I did.
"Did I make some wrong decisions and I obviously did, but you try and do everything right from the analytics, stats, and your vice-captains, to the players. You pour your heart into getting the victory. Sometimes we just got flat out played that week.
"You'll hear people say 'teams on a run get putts,' and you hear that all the time. Momentum is everything in the Ryder Cup. If you can get it, hold onto it for as long as you can. Sometimes it goes for you and sometimes it goes against you, that's just sport at the end of the day."
Darren Clarke, speaking to BoyleSports who offer the latest Ryder Cup odds,
— Ryder Cup Europe (@RyderCupEurope) September 27, 2023