Clarke confident after Augusta

Europe’s Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke has admitted that he took great pleasure in watching a number of European players play some sparkling golf at Augusta National last week.

Not only did England’s Danny Willett win the first major championship of the year, but he was one of seven Europeans in the top 15 at Augusta.

Clarke launched the Ryder Cup trophy tour from Royal Portrush Golf Club in his native Northern Ireland on Tuesday and he made no attempt to mask the satisfaction he took from the weekend’s golf.

“It was a wonderful week from a European perspective,” Clarke said.

“With the winner Danny Willett and indeed Lee Westwood playing a lot better and Justin Rose and Matt Fitzpatrick, there were so many Europeans up there in the top 10.

“It was a very positive week for the Europeans.”

Clarke is known to share a close friendship with Westwood and the latter’s strong showing in Georgia came as a huge relief to the Irishman.

“To see him playing in the manner and fashion that I know he can is certainly very, very heartening,” Clarke said of Westwood.

After finishing tied second at the Masters, Westwood has jumped up to 12th on the European Points List and 10th on the World Points List. He is now close to gaining automatic qualification to Europe’s Ryder Cup Team.

As for his plans to motivate his group of players at Hazeltine National Golf Course later this year, Westwood said he would be making use of former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

“Despite being a Liverpool fan I have asked Sir Alex to come along,” Clarke smiled.

“I was privileged to sit and talk to him for 45 minutes at the Masters last week and I’m going over to Manchester at a later date to talk to him more.”

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