Darren Clarke makes his US comeback after seven-year absence

The Northern Irishman tees off in the McGladrey Classic at Sea Island GC in Georgia

 Darren Clarke:  plays in the McGladrey Classic at Sea Island GC in Georgia and feels  “it’s almost like starting over”.

Darren Clarke: plays in the McGladrey Classic at Sea Island GC in Georgia and feels “it’s almost like starting over”.

Thu, Nov 7, 2013, 01:00

Former Open champion Darren Clarke makes his comeback as a full-time member of the PGA Tour this week after a seven-year absence, admitting it almost feels like a fresh start.

The 45-year-old, who lifted the Claret Jug at Royal St George’s two years ago, last completed a proper season on the US circuit in 2006 – the year his wife Heather died of cancer.

After making 10 starts on American soil – five of which were in Majors or World Golf Championship events – the following year his appearances understandably tailed off as he wanted to be closer to home and his two sons.

His attendances in the States did not total double figures and have not since, but he has now decided the time is right to take up the full membership he is entitled to under his exemption for winning the Open Championship.

“I’ve almost had enough of the long hauls all over Asia and all that sort of stuff,” said Clarke, who has not won an event since victory at Sandwich and has fallen to 283rd in the world rankings.

“Not that it’s bad, but coming over here is certainly a lot easier for me from a scheduling point of view. Europe is my home turf but it’s a great opportunity to come over here and play. I just want to go out and enjoy myself. I’ve travelled all over the world for a long time and I’ve had a great time doing it. It’s almost like starting over.”

The Northern Irishman, who will retain his European Tour membership, tees off in the McGladrey Classic at Sea Island Golf Club in Georgia today hoping to build on a second-place finish at the China Masters last month. “It will be difficult (playing both tours) but it is something I will try to do,” he told PGATour.com. I will see how I get on with it. But my first commitment is to the PGA Tour and I have to get my tournaments in since I became a member again.”

Clarke will also play next week’s OHL Classic in Mexico before returning for the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and Northern Trust Open in February and the entire Florida swing in March.

World number eight Matt Kuchar will look to extend his PGA Tour-leading streak of consecutive cuts this week after a run of 27 events in the money. The United States Ryder Cup star has not missed a cut since the 2012 PGA Championship.