Darren Clarke believes Royal Portrush could be the perfect place to rediscover his form at this week’s Irish Open.
The Northern Irishman moved back to Portrush four years ago, and believes the switch was a major factor in his Open Championship victory at Sandwich last year.
The Irish Open has broken European Tour records with unprecedented ticket sales, as Friday, Saturday and Sunday are already a sell-out, and Clarke is hoping to draw on the huge crowds as inspiration.
“The Irish Open has always been one of my favourite tournaments and to have it here in Royal Portrush with this amount of people here already coming to the tournament – sold out for the first time in European Tour history – makes me very, very proud,” said Clarke.
“It’s not just me, everybody at Royal Portrush and the locals are right behind it.
“It’s all worked out unbelievably well. The players love it – it’s almost got an Open feel, which is what I think the course deserves. It’s fantastic to look out there and see all of the locals and what everybody has achieved.
“It’s just a very special place. I moved up here when I was young, and I played an awful lot of my golf here and moved back a couple of years ago.
“Winning The Open last year, a lot of it was due to the fact that I was living here again playing in Royal Portrush. Some of my fellow Tour pros have not been here before, and every one bar none has been full of praise already. The course is looking fantastic.”
Since his emotional Open Championship triumph Clarke has, by his own admission, struggled for consistency.
The 43 year old has not finished better than 20th, and has missed four cuts in his last five stroke play events.
But after a month off, the former Ryder Cup star feels ready to produce his best form on home soil.
“I’ve been down here quite a lot just practising,” he added. “I’m feeling not too bad, and looking forward to getting back.
“The forecast this week is for some pretty normal Portrush weather which might not be too good, might not be to everybody’s liking – but it is to mine!
“I’ve played the course in some pretty horrific conditions, so hopefully that will be a little bit of an advantage, as it will be to most of the Irish guys that have played here before. It’s a golf course that you need to know a little bit, and definitely in bad weather.
“As for myself, I’ve been working away and hopefully things will turn around pretty soon and get back to where it’s been.
“I think it’s going to be wonderful pictures going around the world of Royal Portrush and the whole area. It’s a huge boost for the area that can only be a good thing. It’s wonderful to see a major tournament back here again at one of the best courses that we’ve got. I doubt we’ll play a better course on The European Tour this year, and that’s the feeling amongst most of the pros.
“For guys to come along here and say, looking around, everything about it, it feels like an Open Championship, is about as big of praise as anybody can give it.”