Ireland played host to The Ryder Cup for the first time in 2006 inone of the most emotional victories ever witnessed on the world stage at golf’s greatest team event.
It may be ten years since Team Europe triumphantly claimed a third successive Ryder Cup, but for 2016 European Ryder Cup Captain Darren Clarke, the achievements on the final day at The K Club were not only a defining moment in his illustrious career, but a moment of sporting history that captured the purest of human emotions.
Clarke, who made himself available for selection as a wildcard pick to Ryder Cup Captain Ian Woosnam just three weeks after wife Heather’s passing, showed incredible strength of character by making his return to the golfing arena to fulfil her wishes of him to participate in, and win, The Ryder Cup for Europe.
After Clarke completed a 3 and 2 victory over America’s Zach Johnson, it was the then-rookie Henrik Stenson - the Swede set to make his fourth Ryder Cup appearance this year - who sealed the victory for Team Europe with a 4 and 3 win over Vaughn Taylor, sparking celebrations across the course as both teams saluted Clarke’s inspiring performance.
As Irish fans packed the greenside grandstands and thousands more hurried to find a position along the fairway in search of a glimpse of Ryder Cup history, countryman Clarke was unbeaten in his three matches as Europe won, the memory etched into Woosnam’s mind forever.
“At the beginning of the week, if someone had asked me do you believe in destiny, I would have said no most probably,” Woosnam said as he reflected on the stunning 18½ points to 9½ win over Team USA.
“But when I stood on that 16th green, seeing Darren finishing off his match, I think that changed my mind, I think that was destiny. I think that week was destiny for Darren, and obviously for Heather as well, so that’s why we dedicated it to her.”
Famous conquests took place throughout the final day with Clarke’s team-mates in dominant form, as singles victories to Colin Montgomerie and Paul Casey put the first two points on the board for Team Europe before David Howell and Luke Donald followed suit, with Stenson adding the knockout blow late in the day.
The importance of this famous event to 2016 Ryder Cup captain Clarke is evident in his meticulous preparation, and as Hazeltine National edges ever closer, the 48 year old will draw on all of his past experiences to galvanise Team Europe in their bid for an unprecedented fourth straight Ryder Cup victory.