FORMER Open champion Darren Clarke will chase a very special double this summer.
The Northern Irishman, who lifted the Claret Jug in 2011, will make his bow in the Senior Open Presented by Rolex debut after confirming he will tee it up at Royal Lytham & St Annes from July 25-28.
Liverpool fan Clarke turned 50 last year, missing out on Europe’s only Senior Major Championship that season by just two weeks.
Now he is relishing the chance to lock horns with some old rivals from down the years over the Lancashire links, where Clarke finished in a tie for third in 2001.
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,” said Clarke.
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.
In 2001 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 in 2016, Langer at Royal Porthcawl 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, who has won 21 tournaments worldwide during a 29-year career, 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 Langer, Paul McGinley Colin Montgomerie and Ian Woosnam in the field, as well as defending champion 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.
Tickets start from £13.50 and are available from https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-senior-open-presented-by-rolex-2019-tickets-50085470992. Entry for Under-16s and parking are free.