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Lee Westwood: Darren Clarke was always out inspiration

It is sometimes the smallest statements which prove the most inspirational and Westwood can testify to Clarke’s knack of saying the right thing at the right time. In eight games together they won six times, including the last four. They played against Tiger Woods three times and won every encounter. On each occasion Woods was either world No 1 or No 2 and in that hat-trick of defeats was partnered by a world No 2 in David Duval, a No 3 in Jim Furyk and a No 4 in Phil Mickelson.

“It was in the middle of those games against Tiger and his partners when I’d think to myself: ‘Darren’s going to be a great captain,’ ” Westwood said.

“He would get in my ear and say something that would really help; nothing really grand or anything, just a little gee up when he knew we needed it.

“When we played Tiger and Phil at Oakland Hills it was ‘come on, it’s all on them, we have nothing to lose, let’s just enjoy it and make the most of it’.”

It worked. Clarke and Westwood prevailed on the 18th and Hal Sutton’s risky eggs-in-the-same-basket cracked irrevocably. Yet this was not to be the best-known victory of the Clarke-Westwood partnership. That was to come in 2006 at the K Club near Dublin and the tragic circumstances surrounding it – with Clarke’s first wife, Heather, having passed way from cancer six weeks before – only strengthens Westwood’s conviction that Clarke will be able to withstand the pressure in Minnesota in 18 months’ time.

“That was as brave a performance as I have seen on a golf course,” Westwood said. “How he even managed to pull the club back on that first tee, let alone smack the drive down the middle I shall never know. That showed you everything about his character.”

Westwood believes Clarke and Europe will require all their sporting resilience to inflict on the US an unprecedented fourth defeat in a row.

“I honestly think this Ryder Cup will be hardest one yet to win. The US team are really hurting after this last one at Gleneagles – they didn’t come out of it looking good at all. But they’ve got some great young players and if it’s right that they will [on Tuesday] name Davis Love as their captain then I actually think that’s a great choice. So Darren’s got a tough job on his hands, but he’s well capable of it.”

How Clarke could do with his great compadre in his ranks. There has even been mention that if Westwood does not play in his 10th Ryder Cup in succession, he might join Clarke as an assistant.

For his part, the 41-year-old is not even considering such a scenario after an upturn in form that has brought a win and two other top-10s in his last three events. “No, I’ve got a few Ryder Cups in me yet as a player,” Westwood said. “I genuinely believe I’m going to play some great golf in the forthcoming years and get back to where I was a few years ago. I wouldn’t want to put Darren in the situation where I’m not in the team automatically, although I assure you he wouldn’t pick me if it wasn’t warranted. And, of course, I wouldn’t want him to. But the best thing is to qualify by right isn’t? And help him out that way.”

Before Westwood tells him to “bog off” that, is.

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