Golf: Veterans still strong, says Clarke

2011 British Open Champion Darren Clarke poses with the Claret Jug trophy at the Royal Portrush Golf Club.
2011 British Open Champion Darren Clarke poses with the Claret Jug trophy at the Royal Portrush Golf Club. PHOTO: REUTERS

As former world No. 1 Tiger Woods turns 40 today, fellow veteran Darren Clarke has warned against writing off golf's old guard.

Citing the case of 56-year-old Australian Peter Senior, who won his third Australian Masters last month, Clarke said he believes the veterans can still challenge for titles and change the perception that golf is now ruled by 20-somethings. The world's top-three golfers Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy are 22, 28 and 27 respectively.

Said Clarke, 47, who won his only Major title at the British Open at 43: "Our sport is different than any other sport in the world because we have the likes of those young guys and then you take a look at Peter Senior, 56-year-old, (who) can still compete with all the young kids and win.

"It's not all about bombing 370 yards down the fairway, as Peter Senior showed."

He noted that golfers have prolonged their careers due to greater fitness and improved technology. Europe's Ryder Cup captain said: "The golf ball has changed immensely. The guys are fitter.

"When I first came in to it you didn't play 18 holes. You might go and hit a few balls and then you go to the bar and have a couple of pints and just relax and have a couple of glasses of wine.

"(This) doesn't really happen anymore. They're in the gym all the time. They're fitter, they're more flexible, they're stronger.

"Technology with the golf ball, the shafts - everything has just moved forward."

But, while these advancements in the game have benefited golfers today, Clarke, who will feature at the Jan 28-31 SMBC Singapore Open, believes that experience still counts. "At the end of the day, you still need your nerves to hole a three-footer down from left to right, so that bit is never going to change in our game," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 30, 2015, with the headline 'Veterans still strong, says Clarke'. Print Edition | Subscribe