Darren Clarke is relishing his return to Royal Lytham & St Annes as the 2011 Open Champion prepares for his first appearance at The Senior Open which begins on Thursday.
The 50-year-old Irishman is making his debut in Europe’s only Senior Major just one week after teeing it up at The Open at Royal Portrush, Co. Antrim, last week.
The 2016 Ryder Cup Captain missed the cut at Royal Portrush by two strokes, but is hoping to bounce back on a course where he finished third at The Open in 2001, and which hosts The Senior Open for the first time since 1994.
“This is my first one, and it’s nice to come back to Lytham again”, admits Clarke. “I played the last one here and I’ve been fortunate to play three previous Opens here. The course is wonderful, it’s still as tough as it’s ever been. The course is in a great shape and it will be a very good week.”
Looking ahead to this week’s action at the Royal Lytham & St Annes links, the Tyrone man admitted:
“It’s a very strong field, lots of Major Champions and great players. So it’s going to be a good, fair, stern test. I’m not averse to a bit of wind, from what I’ve seen it will change direction over the week, so we’ll see all aspects of the golf course.”
Among that strong field will be American golfing legend Tom Watson, who will make his 18th appearance in the event. The former US Ryder Cup captain is one of only three players to have won The Senior Open Trophy on three occasions – alongside Bernhard Langer and Gary Player, and also just one of three to have won both The Senior Open and The Open.
Last year at The Senior Open at St Andrews, Watson shot his age – 68 – in the first round and was just three strokes behind Miguel Angel Jiménez after 54 holes.
Speaking of The Senior Open on the Lancashire links, Watson said:
“It’s an excellent test, it’s grown on me. I didn’t particularly understand it in the early Open Championships that I played, but the more I played here the more I enjoyed it and understood it. There are several holes out there you have to play well, the first that comes to mind is 12 – the par three – 15 is another one, you really have to play that well. They have double the number of bunkers than any other Open Championship venue.”
Watson and Clarke will be joined in the field by six additional former Ryder Cup captains, 12 Major Champions and 25 further Ryder Cup players, when the 33rd edition of The Senior Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes is staged from Thursday 25th July until Sunday 28th July.