Ireland on right track to produce next generation of tour players claims Darren Clarke

Darren Clarke
Darren Clarke

Darren Clarke has backed the Golfing Union of Ireland to produce a new generation of talent capable of competing on the European Tour.

The 46-year-old, who remains the favourite to succeed Paul McGinley as Europe’s Ryder Cup captain, insists that Ireland’s young players can make the grade.

“I think the GUI are doing a fantastic job. They have a great facility down at Carton House,” said Clarke who was speaking at a TaylorMade event hosted by the Darren Clarke Golf School in Co Antrim.

“There will be spells when you have talent coming through. It is always cyclical, that it’s just the way it is.”

Ireland currently has just two golfers under 30 playing on the European Tour - Rory McIlroy (25) and Shane Lowry (27).

In contrast, Franch golf is enjoying a resurgence driven by young stars such as Gary Stal, Victor Dubuisson, and Alexander Levy who have all won on the European Tour.

“Yes we would love to have another couple of Irish guys making an impact, of course we do – we need a couple – but it is just the way it goes,” continued the 2011 Open Champion.

“The continentals have had facilities like the one at Carton House for much longer than we have had and their kids are coming through now.

“They have had more time to get the right things in place but you can’t fault the work the GUI are doing.

“And then look at what Graeme [McDowell] and Rory do for Irish golf by competing and winning around the world. That goes an awful long way.

“I think it is only a matter of time before we have some young guys coming through again because we have a lot of really talented youngsters.”

Clarke’s own form has been something of a frustration since lifting the Claret Jug but he insists that recent Ryder Cup speculation has not been a distraction.

“I’m hitting it is a well as normal and all that other stuff going on is out of my control,” he added.

“I can control what I’m doing, standing on the practice green at Royal Portrush whenever it is freezing cold and blowing 40 mph. That is what I can control

“I can’t control the decision making process for the Ryder Cup so I would love to have issues but I haven’t got one. I just keep working and keep working.”

In a bid to get back to winning ways, Clarke has shed weight over the last 18 months and committed to a strength and conditioning regime.

He has also reconnected with Chris Sells, a golf analyst who has been crunching Clarke’s on-course statistics in a bid to help him understand the areas of his game that need improvement.

As a result of Chris’ investigations Darren has made a significant change to his golf clubs replacing a wedge with a five wood.

Clarke continued; “I haven’t been working with Chris for three or four years and until he highlighted the omission from my bag I didn’t really think about it.

“When he flagged it up I thought, ‘you know what, he has a point there. Chris used to keep all my stats so he obviously knows.

“It is a little bit different not having those four wedges in but it’s nothing I can’t cope with.”

Clarke has maintained a relatively old-fashioned approach to the game, one based on ‘feel’ instead of relying on the mirade of facts and figures currently available to golfers of all abilities.

That’s not to say that he won’t make use of technology is it can possibly give him an edge on his competitors.

“If you watch any of the American television coverage of tour events they are throwing in stats left right and centre,” said Darren.

“Everything has gone more statistic orientated. It’s a global phenomenon with people looking more content and more info via social media.

“It is very easy to get carried away. I look at some key numbers and go with those.

“If you start looking at too many it is very easy to get confused.”

Darren will play in the Dimension Date Pro-Am this week in South Africa.

The European Tour’s Ryder Cup selection panel will meet on Wednesday and an announcement is expected later in the day.