Clarke: Rise of young guns good for game
2011 Open champion says modern game is making it harder for veterans to win
The days of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson as the two superstars of the game are almost certainly over.
Golf fans still want to watch them, maybe the two greats of the game are still capable of magic at the US Masters at Augusta National for a number of Aprils to come.
Along with Ernie Els and Vijay Singh, they were once dubbed the "Fab Four", although that was slightly unfair on Tiger with his Major wins.
While world No. 1 Jordan Spieth has rubbished talk of a new "Fab Four" comprising fellow American Rickie Fowler, Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy and Australia's Jason Day, there was no doubt in the mind of Darren Clarke, who turned pro in 1990.
No names were mentioned when The New Paper asked Clarke about the rise of younger golfers, but the Northern Irishman - like most in the golfing world - zeroed in on the quartet.
"I presume you're referring to Jordan, Rory, Rickie and Jason. I think it's wonderful... they're great young kids and they are wonderful ambassadors for the game," said the 47-year-old, ahead of today's opening round of the SMBC Singapore Open at Sentosa Golf Club.
Addressing the media yesterday, Clarke, who won the British Open in 2011, says the protein-shake, gym-and-yoga generation of players ensured some of the elder statesmen of the sport have struggled to keep up.
"Our game...(now) has some similarities with tennis, where power is becoming more and more important," said Clarke.
"When I was growing up, I was long in comparative terms, but the young kids really hit the ball very far these days."
Clarke, who has played in several tournaments in Asia, says the young guns are rising on the continent, too.
"Asia is like a second home to me, in terms of where I come to play, and it's great to see the strength and depth getting better and better, especially in South Korea and Japan," said Europe's Ryder Cup captain, who was impressed by An Byeong Hun at the recent EurAsia Cup.
Better known as Ben An, the 24-year-old Korean was part of Team Asia that fell to Clarke's Team Europe by a score of 18½ to 5½ .
"They (Asia) are going to get better and produce more players like Ben. Young kids are just stepping up. There's a place for the old guys, but the young guys are fitter, so it's good to see them," Clarke added.
Youth could well be a factor when the Ryder Cup comes around in September.
"Both teams are a long way off from being finalised, but we're going to have a few new (players) in the teams, that's natural progression," he said.
"There are so many young kids coming through and putting pressure on everything. I can control only the European side of things, and I'm very pleased with the way our young guys are shaping up," said Clarke, who pointed to Thomas Pieter's progress, and the 24-year-old German's most recent second-place finish at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.
While Clarke is Europe's non-playing captain at the Ryder Cup, he is not quite ready to completely surrender the playing field to the young guns, yet.
"It's a busy schedule but I'm a golfer, you know, I want to play, I still want to compete," he said.
"At this age... I can play and it's fine, but it's going to get more chaotic come Ryder Cup time.
"Meanwhile, I'll still play and be as competitive as I possibly can."