Masters Diary: Clarke’s on Casey’s case with view to Ryder Cup place

Darren Clarke has changed from angry young man to Mr Happy but the metamorphosis means he is no longer contending in tournaments as much as he would like.

“You know how difficult I have been in the past because I have such high standards with myself,” said Clarke. “And maybe because I have changed somewhat these past few years, maybe the old way was better because I drove myself more to succeed.

“I still want to (succeed) but, at the end of the day, I am 46 now. The game has been good to me. I’ve won a Major, (two) World Golf Championships and I still want to play well. I should be a little bit calmer and easier on myself, but the desire and determination inside me hasn’t diminished any. I want to play well.”

Clarke – who has fallen to 496th in the world rankings – is playing in the Masters on the five-year exemption from his 2011 British Open win. But his position as Ryder Cup captain for next year's match in Hazeltine means he has other things on his plate, one of which involved a discussion with in-form Englishman Paul Casey about rejoining the European Tour. At present, Casey is committed to the PGA Tour.

“From a team point of view I would love him to rejoin the European Tour to be eligible but that is up to him. He wants to be eligible as well but in saying that he has to balance up his time to see whether he can play on both tours.

“If you are top 50 in the world it is much easier to do that. Hopefully he will do. If not, then he can rejoin at the start of next year. He will miss a lot of points but it is great to see him back the kind of golf he can play. He would be a very strong contender (for the team) with the form that he is currently in,” said Clarke.

Weather eye

The outlook for the tournament suggests a good chance of rain and thunderstorms, especially in the afternoon of Thursday and Friday. The approach of a cold front on Friday will likely increase the possibly of thunderstorms. The good news is that the front is anticipated to clear by Sunday’s final round which will allow for mostly sunny and less humid conditions.

Sick Swede

Henrik Stenson, the world number two, has yet to crack a top-10 finish in the Masters and hardly had the best of preparations when floored by the flu last week which led to him spending four days in bed.

“I was more worried about what I was going to watch on Netflix,” he quipped.

More seriously, Stenson admitted: “It was better to be sick last week than this week because if I would have had what I had last week, I wouldn’t be here . . . . it’s just about taking the rough with the smooth and trying to make the best out of it. Expectations are kind of out the window. I’m just happy to be here and to be able to peg it up on Thursday and make the most out of it.”

Bridging Masters history

The Hogan Bridge – which serves as a walkway for players to the 12th green – is probably the most photographed structure at Augusta National . . . but it is not the only bridge on the property: there are two others, the Nelson Bridge and the Sarazen Bridge.

The Nelson Bridge is positioned at the 13th tee and is dedicated to Byron Nelson. The plaque on the bridge recalls that Nelson played the 12th and 13th holes in birdie-eagle to pick up three strokes on Ralph Guldahl to win the 1937 Masters. Incidentally, Guldahl also gets honourable mention on the plaque for his feat in securing an eagle on the 13th two years later to capture the 1939 Masters.

Close to the 15th green lies the Sarazen Bridge, which was erected in 1955 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Gene Sarazen's albatross two in the final round of the 1935 Masters. Sarazen tied with Craig Wood and went on to win a play-off.

By the numbers

37 – Jack Nicklaus holds the record for the number of cuts made in the tournament. The low 50 players and ties and those within 10 strokes of the leader qualify for the final 36 holes.

23 – Gary Player and Fred Couples jointly hold the record for the most consecutive cuts made. The South African's run was between 1959 and 1982 (he didn't play in 1973), while the American's run was between 1983 to 2007 (he didn't play in 1987 or 1994).

52 – Gary Player holds the record number of appearances in the Masters. He played every year from 1957 to 2009, expect 1973.