The 2011 Champion Golfer of the Year, Darren Clarke, will make his Senior Open Presented by Rolex debut later this year after confirming he will tee it up at Royal Lytham & St Annes from July 25-28.
The Northern Irishman turned 50 last year, less than two weeks after the 32nd edition of Europe’s only Senior Major Championship and is now relishing a return to links golf on the over-50s circuit.
Clarke’s emotionally-charged success at The 2011 Open Championship captivated the sporting world as he dedicated his victory to his late wife, Heather, after securing The Claret Jug by a margin of three strokes from Phil Mickelson at Royal St George’s Golf Club. Indeed, it was Clarke’s first top ten in a Major Championship since he finished tied third at The Open in 2001 on the links of Royal Lytham & St Annes – Clarke shared third place with this year’s defending Senior Open champion Miguel Angel Jiménez and fellow former Ryder Cup Captains Bernhard Langer and Ian Woosnam.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to Royal Lytham. It’s a very fair golf course and I went close there in 2001,” said Clarke.
“I remember being one behind on 17 and went with driver when I shouldn’t have. It cost me that time but I have great memories there and I like the course.”
The last three Senior Open champions have all hailed from Europe, with Paul Broadhurst winning at Carnoustie Golf Links in 2016, Langer at Royal Porthcawl Golf Club in 2017 and Jiménez in the first Senior Open at St Andrews last year, and Clarke hopes to see the trophy remain in European hands.
“It’s very special for us to have the opportunity to compete on these fantastic golf courses.” said Clarke.
“Over the last few years, Miguel, Bernhard and Paul have played some superb golf to win the Senior Open Trophy and the number of guys who travel from around the world to play just shows how important The Senior Open is on our calendars.
“These are the guys who I grew up playing golf with and against. That hunger to compete doesn’t leave you and I’ve really been enjoying playing as a senior, getting used to it, and I’m excited about my first Senior Open.”
Clarke will be bidding to join an elite group of golfers who have won both The Claret Jug and the Senior Open Trophy – Bob Charles, Gary Player and Tom Watson.
“I would love to give myself an opportunity to win the Championship and follow in their footsteps,” added Clarke.
The 50-year-old will be one of a host of former Major Champions, Ryder Cup Captains and European Tour winners competing at Royal Lytham & St Annes later this year.
He will join fellow former Ryder Cup Captains Bernhard Langer, Paul McGinley Colin Montgomerie and Ian Woosnam in the field, as well as defending champion Miguel Angel Jiménez, whom Clarke partnered at The 2004 Ryder Cup in a 5&4 victory over Chad Campbell and Davis Love III in the Friday fourballs.