Emotional Clarke Returns to Action

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European TourMADRID, Spain -- Darren Clarke choked back tears as he spoke about his return to golf a month after his wife's death.
 
Clarke is playing in the Madrid Masters this week to prepare for Europe's defense of the Ryder Cup next week at The K Club in Ireland.
 
'I wouldn't be playing if I thought it would hurt the team,' Clarke said Wednesday, his voice cracking. 'Heather was always very much behind me all this time, kicking me out of the house to go and play in tournaments. She would have wanted me to play.'
 
Heather Clarke died of breast cancer Aug. 13 at age 39.
 
'Heather was diagnosed with cancer two days after the last Ryder Cup, so it's not anything that's happened out of the blue,' Clarke said when asked if he was returning too soon. 'It was always in the back of my mind whether or not I would be able to play. I've played well in the past, it's in Ireland, and it's match play -- that's a huge reason for me to go.'
 
Clarke finished outside the top 10 in the European standings, and Ian Woosnam took him with one of his two captain's picks. That left one pick for Thomas Bjorn and Lee Westwood -- two of Clarke's best friends -- and Westwood was chosen.
 
Bjorn harshly criticized Woosnam for not telling him in person. Bjorn was fined by the European Tour for his comments and later apologized.
 
'I feel for Thomas, it was a tough decision for Woosie,' Clarke said. 'Lee and Thomas are two of my best friends, and one was always going to lose out. But that is finished and all done and dusted.'
 
Woosnam's decision to pick Clarke has come under scrutiny since he hasn't played since missing the cut at the British Open on July 21.
 
Clarke will be appearing in his fifth Ryder Cup -- he's been on the winning side three times -- and brings a wealth of experience that teammate Jose Maria Olazabal believes will benefit the European team.
 
'Players like him make the team very strong,' Olazabal said. 'He is a very good player.I played with him at Loch Lomond (in July) and he played well, and that was under the circumstances we all know about.'
 
Clarke played at the K Club last week and relishes the atmosphere that will come with the event.
 
'It will be a tough test,' he said. 'It'll be a stern challenge. It's a tough course. ... It's a game of golf among friends. We all want to win, but hopefully this is what the spirit of how it will be played.'
 
Clarke has been buoyed by the support he has received from so many with the PGA Tour, including friend Tiger Woods.
 
'I spoke to Tiger quite a few times. It was nice to know -- from other players on the tour as well -- that they care and wanted me to play,' Clarke said.
 
'It's a difficult position that I have to get used to and I will get used to,' he said. 'I'm trying to get on with my life -- that's what I'm trying to do. And someone has to pay the bills -- they're not going to pay themselves.'
 
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