Clarke ends year on the up Down Under

Darren Clarke ended his season on a high with his best-placed finish in nearly 18 months after climaxing the Australian PGA Championship in a nine-way share of eighth place.

Clarke got off to a blistering start shooting an eagle and three birdies in his first five holes before playing his next dozen holes in one over par for an eventual final round 68 on nine under par.

The event was won by unheralded 26-year-old Australian Daniel Popovic — the current 1,251st ranked player winning a maiden pro career title by four shots at 16-under par.

However, it had been a bizarre week dominated by a 25-foot high dinosaur named Jeff, controversial signage promoting the building of a replica Titanic, along with dedicating a lake at the ninth hole in the honour of former US President John F Kennedy.

Clarke put the off-course controversy aside to record his first top-10 anywhere since capturing the 2010 British Open at Royal St. Georges.

“It was a great way to finish the season, so I’m pretty happy,” he said.

“I got off to a great start today and just stalled but I had so many chances over the back nine that it could have easily been six or seven under.

“Looking back on the season it’s been yet another frustrating year but at least now with this result I can take that into my first event of the New Year, so that’s something I can look forward to.

“But all I’m thinking about now is getting back home for a few weeks off and spending Christmas with the family.”

Clarke will commence his 23rd season in the pro ranks at the Volvo Champions event in Durban, South Africa on January 19. The 44-year-old Ulsterman will then travel to the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi for the all-important Tournament Players Committee meeting to decide on the 2014 European Ryder Cup captain.

However, with veteran Tom Watson appointed last week at the USA Team captain rumours are ripe Clarke could withdraw his nomination in favour of allowing fellow Irishman Paul McGinley to stand unopposed to eventually face the eight-time Major-winning 63-year old Watson.

Meantime Spain’s Sergio Garcia became the seventh Medinah miracle worker to win since the Ryder Cup with a blistering last round 61 to capture the rain-shortened Iskander Johor Open and the final event on the Asian Tour schedule. Garcia, 32, joins fellow winning Europeans Justin Rose (Turkish Airlines World Golf Final), Peter Hanson (BMW Masters), Ian Poulter (WGC — HSBC Champions), Rory McIlroy (DP World Tour Championship, Dubai), Martin Kaymer (Nedbank Golf Challenge) and Graeme McDowell (World Golf Challenge).


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