Golf: Prancing horse the carrot for Clarke

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The Independent Online
Darren Clarke, who finished joint second in the Volvo PGA Championship at Wentworth last week, has a special incentive not only to make the European Ryder Cup team but also to do well at Valderrama, where the match will be staged in September.

The Irishman, who made a late decision to play in the Deutsche Bank Open in Hamburg this week, said yesterday: "My club manufacturers have promised me a Ferrari 355 if I make the Ryder Cup team and win two points.

"The 355 is one of three current models and costs pounds 100,000. If it comes off, then it comes off and all I know is that it's there as a bonus. The car of my dreams is one that goes fast."

Clarke is third in the Ryder Cup points table, behind Ian Woosnam and Colin Montgomerie and the latest thinking is that 350,000 points will be enough to get into the top 10 and be an automatic selection.

Clarke, with 337,951.57 points, said: "My Ryder Cup position is not finalised but I'm most of the way there. I would dearly like to win this week. I've been playing well of late so instead of pulling out after last week I decided to come here.

"I was close to pulling out because I was tired and I haven't been home since before the Spanish Open five or six weeks ago. I'm still playing at Slaley Hall next week and after that it's the US Open. I like the course here and have played well in the past. I was runner-up to Bernhard Langer here in 1992 and I was third here last year."

To get past the 350,000 points mark in the Cup standings, Clarke will have to finish in the top 10 this week, an achievement well within his grasp on present form. His chances of victory have also improved with the withdrawal of Colin Montgomerie "for personal reasons" and the possibility that Seve Ballesteros may not last the distance this week.

Ballesteros has been struggling with back trouble for some months and only last week had to pull out of the Volvo PGA after one round. Ballesteros said: "I decided to give myself three days rest after Wentworth and see if I felt better. Right now I feel good enough to play as I'm feeling much better. I've also entered Slaley Hall but I go one day at a time right now."

Twelve of the top 20 in the Ryder Cup points table are in the 156-strong field in Hamburg, including Langer, who will be seeking to win for the 10th time in his native Germany. Langer has won the German Open five times, the German Masters twice and the Honda Open and Deutsche Bank Open once each.

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