Clarke looking for the perfect anniversary

Finding the perfect gift for any occasion can be problematical, but Darren Clarke knows exactly what he wants to be given to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his first appearance at Wentworth Club this year – namely the BMW PGA Championship trophy itself. It was in May 1992 that the then 23 year old Northern Irishman – a fledgling professional on The European Tour having just completed his rookie season in 1991 – lined up at Wentworth Club for the first time.

It was a PGA Championship littered with star names including Major Champions Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam, and was won eventually by Zimbabwe’s Tony Johnstone, but Clarke held his own with rounds of 70-72-71-75 for a level par total of 288 and a share of 54th place.

Now, on the 20th anniversary of his first appearance, Clarke, himself now a Major winner having claimed The 140th Open Championship at Royal St George’s last July, is ready for another tilt at the BMW PGA Championship from May 24-27, a title he would dearly love to add to his already impressive golfing CV.

“I think if you ask any player on The European Tour to pick one event outside the Majors that they’d want to win one day it would be the BMW PGA Championship and I am no exception,” he said.

“Obviously to do it on the 20th anniversary of my first playing in the tournament would be extra sweet but I’m under no illusions about the task in hand because the field is always one of the strongest of the entire year.

“I can’t really believe it is 20 years since I played for the first time – time really does fly by when you are having fun. If I’m being honest though, I can’t really remember much about my debut in 1992 but what I do remember was thinking that if I’d qualified to play at Wentworth, I really must have arrived on The European Tour.

“What I do know now though is that the tournament has become bigger and better in every aspect over these 20 years and much more so of late with BMW on board as a title sponsor.

“They have taken everything about the championship to a higher level and it is fantastic that we have a sponsor such as BMW on The European Tour, not just for the championship at Wentworth, but for the other tournaments they do as well. They put on an awesome show.”

Clarke has come close to victory in The European Tour’s flagship event on a number of occasions over the seasons, finishing in the top ten on five occasions in the eight years between 1997 and 2004.

He finished second to Ian Woosnam in 1997 and second again to Colin Montgomerie in 2000 while he also picked up a fourth place in 2004 when Montgomerie’s fellow Scot Scott Drummond triumphed.

“I have come close a couple of times and it is a course I feel I can compete on,” he said. “I’ve always liked the golf course and it has always been demanding, but it is a really tough challenge nowadays after the changes Ernie made to it.

“In the past, on the odd occasion, you used to see people finish perhaps birdie, eagle, eagle to suddenly burst into contention, but with the changes that is a lot harder to do nowadays. It is a much tougher test than it used to be.”

Clarke will form part of a star-studded line-up for the tournament which includes the current top three players on the Official World Golf Ranking; Number Two Rory McIlroy and Numbers One and Three Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, the men who contested the thrilling play-off for the title last May with Donald edging it on the first extra hole with a birdie four.

More than 93,000 people flocked to the tournament week in 2011 and once again demands for tickets will be high. Tickets are available at: www.europeantour.com/tickets or via the Ticket Hotline +44 (0)800 023 2557. A limited number of tables of corporate hospitality remain for Saturday 26 May. Please email: tickets@europeantour.com for further information.

Spectators who buy their tickets in advance of the Championship will be sent a Car Park pass to a designated Car Park. Please follow signs to ENTRANCE 2. Directional signage will then lead you to your Car Park.