Clarke climbs into contention for Race to Dubai crown

20/07/2011 09:48:52
Darren Clarke  (Getty Images)
Darren Clarke (Getty Images)

Open Champion Darren Clarke used Royal St George’s and his debut Major success as the springboard to ensure there would be no repeat of his crushing disappointment in the inaugural Race to Dubai on The European Tour.

The Northern Irishman’s stunning three shot victory last weekend enabled him to climb from 57th to sixth position – the most significant move of the week in the 31st stage in The 2011 Race to Dubai, which concludes with the Dubai World Championship presented by DP World at Jumeirah Golf Estates from December 8-11.

The 42 year old Ulsterman, who has accumulated €1,303,926 from 15 tournaments this season, has good reason to remember the 2009 campaign which ended in heartache one step removed from the Dubai finale.

On that occasion, Clarke went into the final counting event, the UBS Hong Kong Open, in 63rd place and despite a valiant attempt to qualify at the last hurdle by moving up two rungs of the ladder, he finished just one place out of the frame in 61st position.

There will certainly be no such agony for Clarke to endure this time around. Having claimed 30th place in 2010 behind overall race winner Martin Kaymer, he won the Iberdrola Open in Majorca in May to put himself in a strong position to qualify for the 2011 climax at the Greg Norman-designed Earth Course.

However, the sweetest moment of all arrived on the Kent coastline in England last Sunday when he captured the Claret Jug to propel himself into sixth behind current Race to Dubai leader and World Number One Luke Donald, fellow 2011 Major Champions Charl Schwartzel (second) and Rory McIlroy (third), US PGA Champion Martin Kaymer (fourth) and World Number Two Lee Westwood (fifth).

Although Donald, a three-time winner in 2011, has a healthy lead over his rivals with €3,156,695, Clarke’s €999,540 first prize at Sandwich underlines how swiftly the gap can close.

Three times in the past, the Ulsterman has finished as Europe’s Number Two, in 1998, 2000 and again in 2003 while he was third in 2001 and fourth in 1997.

Denmark’s Thomas Björn also made a dramatic forward move with his fourth place finish in The Open and a cheque for €288,756, entering the top 15 in 13th position, a climb of 20 places.