Clarke keeps on track for top-10 place

Andy Farrell,California
Tuesday 02 March 2004 01:00

To compete one moment in California on the west coast of America and the next in Dubai in the Middle East might be one definition of insanity but is merely routine on the European Tour. It is a journey of 12 time zones and 20 hours in the air whether you are flying in a private jet, like Tiger Woods, or in the front of a commercial airliner like Darren Clarke.

Both Woods and Clarke left the Accenture World Matchplay on Sunday night to join up with Ernie Els, who did not play at La Costa, and the rest of the European Tour for the Dubai Desert Classic starting on Thursday. Both men at least had plenty to be happy about after a week of head-to-head contests.

Clarke missed out on a final with Woods, whom he beat to lift the title in 2000, but he won the play-off for third against the Australian Stephen Leaney at the last after being two-down with six to play. The Irishman earned $530,000 (£284,000), to remain at No 13 in the world rankings, two places behind Padraig Harrington.

"Obviously, winning is always good but that was by far the best I've played all week," Clarke said of the play-off. "Everything was good about my game. But there were also a lot of world ranking points at stake and I've been trying to get back in the top-10 in the world. The goal is to keep improving and get as high as I possibly can in the rankings."

As for what follows this week in Dubai, Clarke was not looking ahead. "I can't even think about it right now. I am just concentrating on getting as much sleep as I possibly can," he said.

Woods retained his title with a 3 and 2 victory over Davis Love in which he was not ahead until the seventh in the afternoon and won three holes in a row to secure the match. Love was unsettled by a spectator shouting "No Love," and had him ejected.

"Just another one of those fans that doesn't respect the game," Love said. "I wasn't going to play any more until somebody got kicked out because he had already cost me the second hole. He rattled me and that was his intent. It's hard enough playing a great player and then someone starts heckling you.

"I don't think it is just golf, it's our whole society. People don't respect other people, their elders, or traditions, etiquette and customs. You see it in every sport and walking down the street, people not holding the door open for a lady when you're supposed to.

"I don't come into your office and screw you up. Don't come into mine and screw me up."

Woods, who suffers worse more often, said: "You can block it out as many times as you can but after a while you're going to snap. Golf fans were always excitable but they didn't used to yell out just because the ball got airborne. We are pros. We can get the ball in the air."

The golf finished early on Sunday so the television could switch to Hollywood and the Oscars. An Academy Award is about the only thing missing from Tiger's trophy cabinet but after his appearance in a new commercial parodying the Caddyshack film, perhaps he has pretensions in that department.

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