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The Loop

Darren Clarke can't hide his affection for his Ryder Cup foe

February 25, 2015

Not much has been heard from the new European Ryder Cup skipper since his appointment seven days ago. In South Africa for this week's Johannesburg Open, Darren Clarke has been enjoying what he calls a "relatively low profile in the short term. I'm sure it will all kick-off soon enough when I get home."

It already has, of course. Now that his close friend, Davis Love III, has been installed as America's skipper for the matches at Hazeltine next year, Clarke knows that the demands on his time will increase exponentially. But he was more than happy to see his old pal -- "someone I have a lot of time for and one of my favorite people in golf" -- get the nod from the PGA of America.

"Davis and I have always had a great relationship," continues the former Open champion. "I wasn't surprised by his appointment. I thought he did a great job at Medinah in 2012. He was a victim of a spectacular performance from the Europeans. But what gets forgotten is that he led his team into a winning position only for everything to go Europe's way on the Sunday. So to see him get a second chance was nice.

"When I came off the 18th green at Royal St. Georges in 2011, a few people were there to greet me and give me a hug. Davis was one of those, although he had finished his round a lot earlier. He was supposed to be on a charter flight to the Canadian Open that evening, but he waited for me anyway. That sums up the character of the man. You don't forget gestures like that."

The pair has a history in the Ryder Cup too. Love's last match in America's colors was the half he and Clarke fought out at Oakland Hills in 2004.

"That was a great game," remembers the Ulsterman.

"Afterwards, we were all sitting around the 18th green waiting for the last matches to come up. The European team was on one side and the Americans were on the other. All except Davis and I. We wandered over to a spot somewhere in the middle and lit up a couple of cigars. That moment sums up the level of our friendship. We had played hard and both of us wanted to win. But when it was over we were pals again. That won't change no matter what happens at Hazeltine."