Since missing the cut in the defence of his British Open title, Clarke has been chilling out at the Abaco Resort in the Bahamas and tuning-up at the Green Turtle course.
Then after a 28-hour journey, Clarke arrived from Nassau via Washington Dulles airport to Charleston for the season’s final Major. Kiawah Island hosted the 1991 ‘War on the Shore’ Ryder Cup when USA captain Dave Stockton was unceremoniously dunked in the Atlantic Ocean by his victorious team mates.
And Stockton, who is working this week with Rory McIlroy, reopened wounds 21 years on yesterday declaring all controversy in the biannual event was the fault of European captain, Bernard Gallacher who saw suspicion in every ‘friggin corner.’ But unlike Stockton’s outspoken comments, Clarke’s hardly generated a ripple since winning his only Major. This will be Clarke’s 14th PGA Championship showing with his best finish being ninth at Valhalla a dozen years ago.
“I’ve been in the Bahamas for two weeks, practicing and playing every day,” he said. “I’ve done a bit of fishing, bit of eating and bit of drinking so things are fine. For the most part this last week I’ve actually hit the ball okay, just scored terribly.”
And while McIlroy is trying to find US PGA winning form working with Stockton, Clarke, along with 2008 PGA winner Pádraig Harrington, have been lining up for time with sports guru Bob Rotella.
However, it didn’t help Clarke early yesterday morning in trying to find the first fairway on the Ocean Course.
“I played nine holes early this morning, but it was so dark when I teed off in hitting my first tee shot at five past six,” said Clarke.
“It was so dark and I couldn’t see where it went.”
Clarke was fortunate to get in nine holes before noon when all practice rounds were halted after yet another violent electrical storm lashed the course, and with more bad weather expected over the days of the championship.
Harrington was present last night at the annual former PGA Champions annual dinner where Stockton was honoured by the PGA of America with a distinguished service award.
He arrived to sea level in South Carolina after finishing 19th high in the Rockies at the Reno Tahoe Open and looking to bury negatives of last week by drawing on the positives of when he and Paul McGinley teamed at Kiawah Island in 1997 to deliver Ireland an historic World Cup victory.
“There were a lot of negatives to playing last week in terms of altitude,” he said.
“It was one of the more tiring weeks I’ve ever had on tour, so hot, so dry and so hilly a golf course, so was really was a tough physical week and, obviously, you’ve got your three hour jet lag coming back.
“But, arriving back to Kiaway, I’ve good memories of 97, that’s for sure, and hoping the course this week plays the same as it was in ’97.”
And, like Clarke, this will be Harrington’s 14th PGA Championship, but also a last chance to automatically qualify for the European Ryder Cup team, given he confirmed at Royal Lytham he will not compete at Gleneagles and the final 2012 qualifying tournament.
“My game is what I’ve got to concentrate on, so I can’t concentrate on controlling something I have no control over,” he said.
“I can sit there and watch who’s getting in the team or how many picks are available and who’s getting them.
“So whether I win this week to get in. Who knows? There are many variables and I’ve just got to keep playing my golf and be content that I’m playing well.”
Though for Harrington there is one nagging constant and that’s the fact he has not won on either the PGA or European Tour’s since his 2008 PGA success at Oakland Hills.