Several European stars back in action as 2012 Ryder Cup chase begins

darren clarke
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Darren Clarke is making his first European Tour start since winning the British Open in July.
By
PA Sport

Series: European Tour

For Lee Westwood it was water-skiing, for Darren Clarke it was fishing and for Rory McIlroy it was watching girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki play tennis and receive treatment on his injured arm.

But now it is back to business after their post-PGA Championship time off -- and Ryder Cup business at that.

The trio returns to action at the Omega European Masters, the first event in the year-long race for places on Jose Maria Olazabal's squad.

Having left Wozniacki in New York to continue her bid for what he already has -- a U.S. Open title -- McIlroy resumes his attempt to achieve what she already has -- the world No. 1 spot.

Luke Donald has put that out of reach for the time being, but the 22-year-old Northern Irishman wants to start moving in the right direction again after slipping from third to sixth since his victory in Washington.

"I think if I win I can get back up to third, so that's a nice little goal for me," said McIlroy, who like Westwood and Clarke is also playing next week's KLM Open in Holland. But he won’t be playing for Britain and Ireland at the Vivendi Seve Trophy in Paris in two weeks.

He has needed the last two weeks off after playing that shot -- that "stupid" shot, as he now admits himself -- against a tree root at the PGA Championship.

"The wrist is fine and the elbow's nothing really, but going up into the shoulder there's a little bit of sensation," McIlroy said. "I hit balls three times last week and it was about as much as could do, but I'm ready to go."

Westwood flew to Barbados after the disappointment of seeing the PGA Championship slip away. The world No. 2's eighth place in Atlanta was his seventh top-10 in his last 10 tournaments, but he now has to wait until next April for his next chance to bag his first major title.

"There's still a lot of big tournaments coming up," said Westwood. "I know Luke's a long way in front in the Race to Dubai, but we should try to put the pressure on."

Clarke hopes to start afresh at Crans-sur-Sierre after two weeks in America when the "whirlwind" that followed his British Open victory caught up with him.

"I was done -- I had no concentration," he said of finishing 68th out of 76th in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and then missing the cut in the final major of the season.

McIlroy partners defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez and young Korean Noh Seung-yul in the first two rounds, while Westwood is with Sweden’s Alex Noren and Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee and Clarke with 18-year-old Matteo Manassero and recent winner Oliver Fisher.

German Martin Kaymer, down to fifth in the rankings from top in May, is also in the field.