ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – The McGladrey Classic still isn't sure what kind of field to expect as a regular PGA Tour event in November, about a month later than usual, and one week after most of the top players are in Shanghai for the HSBC Champions. For crowd appeal, the tournament received a boost from the commitment of Darren Clarke.
Considering the host at Sea Island – Davis Love III – that should not be all that surprising.
Clarke, a most popular British Open champion two years ago at Royal St. George's and for years the lovable, cigar-chomping, Ryder Cup regular, decided this year to take up PGA Tour membership and play a full schedule. His first stop in America is Sea Island.
The long friendship between Clarke and Love is best illustrated in match play on two occasions in 2004.
During the semifinals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, Love rallied to force extra holes. The greens were so bumpy at La Costa that Love, not wanting to see the match end with a missed putt, conceded par putts from 4- to 5-foot range on consecutive holes. Love won in 21 holes.
Later that year, in the Ryder Cup, Love put his tee shot on 18 in the rough. He could have widened his stance for a high cut shot and taken relief because his foot would have been on a sprinkler. He chose to play the ball where it was because such a shot would have been impractical. They halved the match.
"He said I was honest with my drop in the rough," Love recalled last month at Sea Island. "Darren is just one of those guys like Freddie (Couples). Everywhere he plays, people like watching him."
Love still isn't sure how Clarke decided on Sea Island. He said Scott Reid, the McGladrey Classic tournament director, heard a rumor Clarke might be playing and asked Love to try to close the deal. Too late. Turns out Clarke already had committed as Love was sending him a text.