ST. ANDREWS — Having achieved his lifetime ambition of capturing the British Open, Darren Clarke acknowledged Wednesday his golf career can only go in one direction as he struggles to map out future goals.
Clarke claimed an emotional victory at Royal St. George's in July, winning his home major in his 20th attempt to become one of the event's most popular champions.
In four tournaments since then, the 43-year-old Northern Irishman has missed the cut twice, finished tied for 68th at the Bridgestone Invitational in the U.S., and tied for 35th at the European Masters in Switzerland.
With motivation clearly an issue, Clarke has been taking advice from those closest to him about where to go next.
“I've done what I always wanted to do, got to the top of the mountain — what else can compare to it?” Clarke said. “What else is there to do?
“There's been a bit of time where I've struggled to fix some other goals.”
It's made Clarke appreciate just how hard it is for athletes, particularly those who have achieved success late in their careers, to keep on going.
“I've no idea how Steve Redgrave did it,” said Clarke, referring to the British rower who won five Olympic golds — the last coming in 2000 at the age of 38.
“It's not as if I'm 21 or 22. I'm 43. Whether I get another chance to win a major, it may not happen.”
After playing five Ryder Cups — including four victories — one of the few challenges left for Clarke is to one day be the captain of the European team.
“In terms of my golfing career, I've won World Golf Championships, I've won the Open, I've won tournaments all around the world — I've had a pretty decent career,” he said. “At some stage in the future, I might be asked to be Ryder Cup captain. What more could I do?”
Prior to his exploits in Sandwich two months ago, he was arguably most famous for helping Europe to victory at the K Club in 2006, just six weeks after his wife Heather died following a battle against breast cancer.
Plenty of Ryder Cup points for next year's match in Medinah, near Chicago are on offer at this week's Dunhill Links Championship, meaning Clarke will be taking the pro-am tournament in Scotland very seriously.
“It's a huge tournament for us on the European Tour. First prize is a lot of Ryder Cup and world ranking points. We will be laughing and joking and we'll all be trying to play well,” said Clarke, who will be accompanied at St. Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns by his manager Chubby Chandler.