Death of Clarkes Wife Tough for Europeans

By Associated PressAugust 15, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 PGA ChampionshipMEDINAH, Ill ' The PGA Championship is never an easy time for the Europeans.
 
Someone is always bringing up that oh-fer streak, a mark of major futility now at 75 years and counting. An Aussie, a couple of South Africans and someone from just about every corner in the United States have won since a European-born player last hoisted the Wanamaker Trophy.
 
This week, though, the pain the Europeans are feeling goes far deeper than wounded pride. Darren Clarke's wife, Heather, died Sunday after a long battle with breast cancer, and her death has left the close-knit European contingent here reeling. The mention of her name is enough to bring a shadow to players' faces, and Padraig Harrington plans to donate this week's earnings to charity in Heather Clarke's honor.
 
'It's a hard loss for everybody that knew Heather, and it's especially hard luck for him and his sons,' Denmark's Thomas Bjorn said Tuesday. 'She's right at the forefront of our minds, and she'll always be in our hearts and our thoughts.'
 
Clarke is one of the most popular Europeans, a burly Northern Ireland native whose personality is even more colorful than his wardrobe. When he announced he'd be arriving late for the Masters -- where he paired a magenta shirt with pink pants one day -- he said he'd prepare for the newly lengthened Augusta National by bone fishing and having 'a few beers.'
 
If players liked Clarke, they liked his wife just as much.
 
'You can see why Darren had so much love for Heather,' Tiger Woods said. 'She's a very strong woman. It's a loss for everyone who ever got a chance to meet her and know her.'
 
Heather Clarke, 39, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002. It returned last year, and spread throughout her body. Even as her condition worsened, though, she pushed her husband to stay on the golf course.
 
Darren Clarke finished third at the Bay Hill Invitational, and shot a 68 at the Houston Open before withdrawing after his wife took a turn for the worse. He was in the hunt at the British Open after opening with a 3-under 69, but followed with an 82 and missed the cut for the first time since 1998.
 
He then announced he was taking a break to be with his wife and their two sons, 8-year-old Tyrone and 5-year-old Conor.
 
'No one can truly understand what he's gone through unless you've actually experienced it yourself,' said Woods, whose father, Earl, died of cancer earlier this year.
 
'I've talked to him a couple times about this, and it's not easy for him to come out here and play,' Woods added. 'But Heather really wanted him to come out here and play and get away from all the distractions at home and go play and go be himself. Heather never wanted anyone to feel sorry for her.'
 
Heather Clarke's prognosis was so poor many of her friends feared she wouldn't make it through 2005. Still, her death on the eve of the last major of 2006 came as a shock.
 
Clarke had already withdrawn from the tournament. Paul McGinley, one of Clarke's closest friends, pulled out Monday to be with him and his family. Harrington and Bjorn said they considered not coming, too, but Clarke talked them out of it.
 
'Darren made it quite clear that the players should go and play,' Harrington said. 'It's what Heather would have wanted. That's made our decision a lot easier to be here.'
 
But the Clarkes are still very much on their minds. Harrington announced Tuesday that any money he wins this week will go to a charity of Darren Clarke's choosing -- even if Harrington wins the tournament and its prize of about $1.2 million.
 
'I'd be delighted to hand whatever over this week,' Harrington said. 'Obviously, not being able to attend the funeral -- when you go to funerals, you can't be much help anyway, but this is at least a practical way of helping.'
 
If Harrington is to win the tournament's biggest prize, he'll have to overcome a lot of history.
 
No European-born player has won the PGA since Tommy Armour, a Scotsman, did it in 1930, when the tournament was still decided with match play. And only two other European-born players -- Scotland's Jock Hutchinson and Jim Barnes of England -- have won it since it began in 1916.
 
'We've certainly got enough quality to challenge for the major championships,' Bjorn said. 'We keep saying if one gets over the line, I think it'll help a lot of others. That's what we've got to believe in.'
 
This week, though, history is the last thing on the minds of the Europeans. One dear friend is gone, and another is grieving an ocean away.
 
'Even though we've got a big tournament this week, it's not a situation that I'm trying to ... let it be,' Harrington said. 'I'm not going to necessarily try and block it out. I'm not going to dwell on it, either. I'm just going to see how it goes.
 
'Obviously the situation as it's happened, it's bigger than golf,' he added. 'It's just a question of carrying on and see how it goes.'
 
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    Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

    By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

    Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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    Rahm (62) fires career low round

    By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

    The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

    Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

    What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

    Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

    Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

    Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

    Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

    Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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    Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

    Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

    "Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

    Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

    "That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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    Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

    By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

    There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

    Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

    Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

    Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

    @tommyfleetwood_1

    A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

    The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

    It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.