Open champion Darren Clarke today admitted he would put his personal opinion to one side and play at Gleneagles next year if he needed to qualify for the Ryder Cup.
Clarke has been scathing in his criticism of the PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles, which will stage the 2014 Ryder Cup and also host the final qualifying event for Europe’s team in 2012.
And although the 43-year-old Ulsterman stands by his criticism of the course, he would be prepared to play there next autumn if he needed points to make Jose Maria Olazabal’s side to defend the trophy at Medinah in Chicago.
Speaking about the Centenary Course during the 2007 Johnnie Walker Championship, Clarke said: “It’s unbelievable they chose to stage the 2014 Ryder Cup on this course. There are unbelievable courses in Scotland, not least of which are the two others at Gleneagles, the King’s and Queen’s. So it’s beyond my comprehension they’ve chosen to have the Ryder Cup on this course.
“I’m going to be ripped for saying what I’ve said. But I just can’t see it as a Ryder Cup venue, Ryder Cup golf course, and it’s a shame.”
Asked today if he would play at Gleneagles next year, Clarke added: “Very good question. If I had to go back I definitely would. The Ryder Cup is much more important than my personal opinion.”
Making the trip north may become a moot point however, with Clarke’s Open triumph at Sandwich coming before the qualifying race began on September 1.
Since lifting the Claret Jug, Clarke has played in four European Tour events, missing the cut twice and finishing 68th and 35th in the Bridgestone Invitational and European Masters – the opening qualifying event - respectively.
And he admits it has been difficult to reset his goals after fulfilling a lifelong dream at Royal St George’s, while everyone else has been having difficulty simply keeping hold of the Claret Jug.
“I’ve not managed to drop it yet myself, but a few other people have,” Clarke said ahead of the Dunhill Links Championship. “It can bend quite easily, believe it or not.
“I won’t tell you where it was, but it’s happened a few times and it’s not my fault. Other people have had a bit of fun with it before I got my hands on it, so I’m not the only one I’m sure. I did give it a bit of a twist to straighten it out a little bit.”
As for his goals, he added: “I’ve managed to win the tournament I’ve wanted to win from when I started playing the game of golf, the biggest and best tournament in the world. My difficulty since has been assessing and fixing some goals.
“I’ve done what I’ve always wanted to do, got to the top of the mountain. What else is there to do? Yes, they (major championships) are all very important, but to me The Open is the oldest, the biggest, the best there is.
“If you ask anyone who achieves their lifetime goal how do you keep going and going, I have no idea. I’ve won World Golf Championship events, I’ve won The Open, I’ve won tournaments all around the world. At some stage in the future I might be asked to be Ryder Cup captain. What more could I do?”