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Clarke eyes elusive Irish triumph

After achieving one dream – winning The Open, of course – Darren Clarke returns to action this week hoping for another.

imageClarke’s victory at Sandwich came 20 years after his debut in the championship, but his first attempt to lift the Irish Open was even longer ago. It was as a 21-year-old amateur in 1990 that the Northern Irishman made his maiden European Tour appearance at Portmarnock, making the cut before finishing in 50th place 18 strokes behind Jose Maria Olazabal.

“I’ve been close on a number of occasions and never quite got the job done – a bit like in The Open you could say,” Clarke told the European Tour website.

“It would be a hell of an achievement – a dream come true – to have The Open and Irish Open trophies on display back at home.

“It has already been an amazing month for me and to do the double would be unbelievable.”

Not that he would be the first to do it. At Killarney in 1992 Nick Faldo had the second of three successive victories in the Irish Open and a month later captured his third Open title in six years, while four years ago at Adare Manor Padraig Harrington ended a 25-year wait for a home winner and two months later triumphed at Carnoustie for the first of his three major titles.

Clarke does already have a victory on Irish soil, though. That was the European Open at The K Club near Dublin 10 years ago.

Back then the only Irishman to win a major was Fred Daly in the 1947 Open, but in between Harrington’s hat-trick and Clarke’s success were, of course, the back-to-back US Open victories of Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy.

All four compete this week, prompting Clarke to say that the scenes “could be like nothing we’ve seen before”.

Despite Irish golf being on an unprecedented high, however, the prize money has been cut in half to £1.32million following the withdrawal of telecommunications company 3, title sponsors for the previous three years.

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