European showing at Masters encourages Clarke
European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke said Tuesday he was delighted by the "wonderful" showing of the continent's top golfers at the Masters.
Not only did England's Danny Willett win the first major championship of the year, but he was one of seven Europeans in the top 15 at Augusta National.
That heartened Clarke, who will skipper the European team when they defend the Ryder Cup against the United States on American soil later this year.
"It was a wonderful week from a European perspective," Clarke said of the Masters while speaking at his home club at Royal Portrush, Northern Ireland, on Tuesday to launch the start of a Ryder Cup trophy tour.
"With the winner Danny Willett and indeed Lee Westwood playing a lot better and Justin Rose and Matt Fitzpatrick, there were so many Europeans up there in the top 10," said Clarke, who missed the cut at Augusta.
"So it was a very positive week for the Europeans," the former British Open champion added.
Willett's victory was the first major of his career but Clarke was not surprised by his success.
"He's been playing really well now for a couple of years, I am a good friend of his, I've spent a lot of time with him and his game has just been getting better and better," said Clarke.
"It's certainly no surprise whatsoever. He's performed really well, especially of late again, and from a personal point of view I was delighted to see him win."
Clarke was also pleased to see close friend Lee Westwood come joint second at Augusta.
"To see him playing in the manner and fashion that I know he can is certainly very, very heartening," he said.
During the Masters, Clarke met with former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, who was also sounded out by former European captain Paul McGinley.
"It's a long way off before the team is finalised, a lot of big tournaments, a lot of Ryder Cup points to be played for," he said.
"There would be very few people who have had as successful a career as he has had."
"He was very, very helpful. I will go over and spend a bit more time with him shortly over in Manchester -- he was more than willing to help me.
"As a Liverpool fan it was quite difficult, but you know the man is a legend."
The 2016 Ryder Cup is being held at Hazeltine, Minnesota, from September 30-October 2.
© 2016 AFP