Augusta return right for Woods, claims Clarke

DARREN CLARKE believes his close friend Tiger Woods got it right in opting for next month’s US Masters as his return to golf.

Like his ‘controlled’ conference last month at US Tour headquarters in Florida, Woods will return to competition at the ‘controlled’ environment of Augusta National.

Augusta is able to limit daily attendance numbers and it also restricts the number of media attending the event.

Normally, if you’re not involved with reporting on golf, you are not afforded access to the US Masters.

However Woods is assured to be accused of putting his own needs ahead of those of his fellow players, whose preparations will inevitably by disrupted by the media circus surrounding Woods.

Clarke was practicing yesterday in Morocco ahead of this week’s Hassan 11 Trophy in Rabat when he learnt of Woods’ decision.

Clarke may not be contesting this year’s US Masters but he’s come to know Woods very well having competed in five Ryder Cups against a USA team featuring Woods.

However on a more personal note, Woods also shared many moments with Clarke particularly after the death of Clarke’s wife, Heather.

“Augusta is a great venue for him to come back and play because the course is so good and he likes it so much there, so it’ll be great,” said Clarke.

“I thought Tiger may have played the Tavistock Cup next week but obviously not.

“But then Tiger doesn’t make many wrong decisions when it comes to his golf. So I’m sure he’s doing what he thinks is best and Augusta will be fine.

“All the players will be delighted to see him back playing. It’s great to see him coming back again. It’s absolutely brilliant.

“We all want him back because he’s the best player on the planet and everyone wants to compete against the best.

“When you win a tournament it’s fantastic but when you win and Tiger’s playing it’s a little bit more fantastic.

“So it’s going to be some Masters. It’ll be brilliant. I for one, like everybody else, will be watching a lot of it to see how he plays. But I’m sure he will be right there in the mix.”

Clarke was aboard a special Air Maroc charter flight out of London Gatwick on Monday for Rabat.

Also aboard the Boeing 737-800 were his parents plus fellow Irish competitors Peter Lawrie, Damien McGrane, Gareth Maybin and Damien McGrane.

However reigning Irish Open champion Shane Lowry and Michael Hoey came via Madrid although Lowry’s luggage failing to arrive at Casablanca Airport.

Meanwhile Ireland’s richly-talented amateurs launch their competitive season in earnest today when they begin their challenge for the prestigious European Nations Championship at Sotogrande.

This event heralds the serious start of the European season, particularly significant in a year which ends with the World Championships.

Spearheading the Irish challenge will be Close champion Pat Murray from Limerick while Portstewart’s Paul Cutler, who next month turns out for Asia-Pacific against Europe in the Bonallack Trophy match in India, is a major asset to the team.

Also in the team will be Rathmore’s Alan Dunbar and Dara Lernihan from the Castle Club.

England are defending the Nations Cup with their strong team consisting of British Boys’ Champion Tom Lewis and Walker Cup players Tommy Fleetwood, Matt haines and Chris Paisley.

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