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Clarke: a gold medal is not like a Major

Darren Clarke, Europe’s Ryder Cup captain, has expressed fears over the impact of golf at the Olympics this year. Clarke, who was hosting the Costa Smeralda Invitational last week before heading to the French Open, said players from both sides of the Atlantic would be lacking proper time off ahead of the Ryder Cup if they played in Rio.

“Everything has become much more condensed for them because of the Olympics,” said Clarke. “The requirements on players has become far more intense. Guys might like to have a week off or whatever they need to do, but because the Olympics are there now, that opportunity is taken away from them. Personally I’d like the guys as fresh as possible for the Ryder Cup.”

Clarke added that the criticism heaped on players such as Rory McIlroy for missing the Olympics this year is “harsh”. McIlroy cited his fears over the Zika virus as his reason for missing the Games and Clarke said: “He [McIlroy] is looking forward to becoming a father and having kids, so I think the criticism levelled towards him is very harsh.

“We don’t know enough about the virus and right now he’s doing what he feels is best as each and what every athlete in every other sport is entitled to do. Golfers are making their decisions based on family lives. And at the moment, a gold medal in golf at the Olympics is not like a major. The Olympics is different for golfers because while a gold medal is an unbelievable achievement, it’s not an Open Championship, it’s not a Masters, a U.S. Open or a USPGA Championship. They’re our majors. In time, the Olympics will be too – but not yet.”

Having played in the Ryder Cup five times and been a vice-captain twice Clarke said he had a good idea what the general role of captain was all about, but still concedes that he has been surprised by all the other elements that come with it, and appreciates that everything he says in the build-up to the Ryder Cup will be under close scrutiny.

“All eyes are on me and I won’t even be hitting a shot,” he said. “Captaincy is much more that I thought it was going to be. I had no idea how much extra there was about it but there are two ways of going about it. You can either be very hands-on or let the excellent European Tour do a lot of the work for you. And I want to be more hands-on.”

Clarke took time out to host the second edition of the Costa Smeralda Invitational, which was won by Gianfranco Zola. All money generated from the Costa Smeralda Invitational and its guests will go to the Road to Awareness campaign in aid of UNICEF. This year the Costa Smeralda Invitational raised over €65,000 for the Road to Awareness campaign in aid of UNICEF to support its domestic and international humanitarian work.