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Darren Clarke Aims for WGC Hat-Trick in American Express Championship

     Darren Clarke


Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland chases a remarkable hat-trick of titles this week when he competes in the World Golf Championships - American Express Championship at the Capital City Club, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

The European Ryder Cup player is the only man apart from World Number One, Tiger Woods, to have captured more than one title in the WGC series, and he now aims to break Woods's monopoly as the only person to have claimed the WGC - Accenture Match Play, the WGC - NEC Invitational and the WGC - American Express Championship.

Apart from winning the 2000 WGC - Accenture Match Play at La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, California, to become the first European winner of a WGC event, Clarke added a second title in August by landing the WGC - NEC Invitational at Firestone Country Club, Akron, Ohio by four shots from American Jonathan Kaye.

Clarke said: "I am looking forward to trying to add the WGC - American Express Championship to the other two individual WGC events I've won in the past.

"It was fantastic to win a second World Golf Championships event in Akron. The Accenture Match Play was fantastic to win, but the NEC, being stroke play, was every bit as special. To be only the second person to win two of these behind Tiger, and to follow in his footsteps, is pretty good."

The 35 year old Ulsterman is two-thirds of the way to achieving the 'Grand Slam' of individual WGC titles in an event which last year attracted 49 out of the top 50 on the Official World Golf Ranking to Mount Juliet in Co, Kilkenny, Ireland, where Woods won the WGC - American Express title and the Gene Sarazen Cup for a second time.

Clarke is one of 31 European Tour Members playing at the Capital City Club this week in search of the $1,050,000 first prize which could create significant movement at the top of the Volvo Order of Merit, where South Africa's Ernie Els leads Clarke by €771,940.

Remarkably, Els has still to win one of the WGC events, but a season which has yielded six wins worldwide, including four on The European Tour International Schedule, has provided the World Number Two with an excellent opportunity to secure the Volvo Order of Merit crown for the first time.

There is a strong European Tour challenge in Atlanta, including Sergio Garcia of Spain, South Africa's Retief Goosen, Australia's Adam Scott and England’s Lee Westwood who - like Clarke - all have experience of winning over 72 holes on the US PGA Tour. Scott is the most recent victor, having played superbly to win the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston in August, a tournament in which his close friend, Justin Rose of England, finished third and Clarke tied ninth.

Rose, of course, finished in a share of fifth place in the US Open Championship in June, alongside two-time European Tour winner, Fredrik Jacobson of Sweden, and three places behind Australia's Stephen Leaney, who pushed eventual winner, Jim Furyk, all the way at Olympia Fields Country Club in Illinois.

Arjun Atwal, Michael Campbell, Paul Casey, Padraig Harrington, Trevor Immelman and Ian Poulter - all winners on The 2003 European Tour International Schedule - are in the world class field along with Denmark's Thomas Björn, who came close to winning the 132nd Open Golf Championship at Royal St George's, and Scotland's seven-time Volvo Order of Merit winner, Colin Montgomerie of Scotland. Raphaël Jacquelin, one of 12 European Tour Members making their debuts in the WGC - American Express Championship, and Westwood both earned a berth in the field by climbing into the top 20 in the Volvo Order of Merit after the dunhill links championship.

All four Major Champions from 2003 are also competing, including Masters Tournament winner, Mike Weir of Canada, who is bidding for a second WGC - American Express Championship victory after his success at Valderrama in 2000.

Also teeing up are US Open Champion Furyk, Open Golf Champion Ben Curtis of America, who edged out Björn by a single shot in July and Curtis's fellow American, Shaun Micheel, who produced one of the season's great shots to the 72nd hole in capturing the US PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club in August.

Courtesy of: www.europeantour.com

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