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Darren Clarke hails ‘golden era’ for European golf

Open champion Darren Clarke believes European golf is experiencing another “golden era”.

The 43-year-old won his first major last summer while fellow Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy triumped at the US Open and England’s Luke Donald finished on top of the money lists.

“Golf over here is very strong at the moment,” Clarke said.

“It’s like the sort of dominance we had in the late 80s and early 90s, we’re back to that golden era.”

Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Ian Woosnam, Bernhard Langer and Jose Maria Olazabal were regulars in the world’s top 10 during that period and, fast forward to 2011, four Europeans occupied the top four spots in the final week of the year.

Donald and McIlroy are joined by England’s Lee Westwood and Germany’s Martin Kaymer, who won the 2010 PGA Championship, in the top four.

“We’re incredibly fortunate,” added Clarke, who ended a 20-year wait to land his first major, at Royal St George’s, last July.
“You look at Rory and the way he’s been playing, and what he did at the US Open.

“And you’ve got Luke, who finished number one in the money list in the United States and Europe. I don’t think that will be done again. What Luke achieved was monumental.”

The Northern Ireland player, who has played in four Ryder Cup-winning teams, and was a victorious vice-captain in 2010, said it was only a matter of time before world number two Westwood would join the elite.

“My good mate is knocking on the door – he’ll win a major, or majors, sooner rather than later,” he added.Another friend Clarke believes will again be challenging for the big prizes is Tiger Woods.

The former world number one and 14-time major winner, who fell as low as 58 in the rankings in November, broke his two-year winless streak by taking the Chevron World Challenge in December. However, Woods is still without a PGA Tour win since November 2009.

“I spoke to him after he won the tournament – he was obviously delighted,” said Clarke, who became an OBE in the New Year Honours list.”The game needs Tiger. You remember the excitement he brought to the game when he first came on the scene.”I’m looking forward to him taking on the likes of Rory, Lee and Luke in 2012. As talented as Tiger is, he won’t be far away from his best.”

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Woods says he was not fined for comment

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Woods says he was not fined for comment

CHASKA, Minnesota – Tiger Woods said he was not fined by the U.S. PGA Tour for his critical remarks about a rules official putting the last group on the clock at the Bridgestone Invitational.

A tour official told The Associated Press on Monday that the world’s No. 1 player would be fined for his comment. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the tour does not publicize fines.

A section of the tour handbook says “it is an obligation of membership to refrain from comments to the news media that unreasonably attack or disparage tournaments, sponsors, fellow members, players or PGA Tour.”

“I’ve heard from the tour and there’s no fine,” Woods said. “That was an erroneous report.”

Woods was annoyed after his four-shot victory on Sunday because he and Padraig Harrington were put on the clock after walking off the tee at the par-5 16th.

He said that caused Harrington to rush three difficult shots, leading to triple bogey that effectively ended the tournament. European Tour chief referee John Paramor told Woods and Harrington they were being timed.

Woods said he told Harrington after it was over, “I’m sorry that John got in the way of a great battle.”

Asked on Tuesday if he regretted making the issue personal by calling out Paramor, Woods said, “No. Because he’s the one who did it.” Woods said he can appreciate the job of a rules official, and “that’s why I thought they would have used better judgment on that.”

“As I said, we were the ones that were probably going to win the golf tournament in the last group. We separated ourselves,” Woods said. “And after what Paddy went through, we were still right there behind the group in front of us. So I don’t know if the group in front of us was being timed or not. They didn’t look like they were rushing. But it certainly influenced us in how we played and influenced the outcome of a tournament.”

While the U.S. PGA Tour does not discuss fines, spokesman Ty Votaw confirmed Woods has not been fined.

“The information that was conveyed to the reporter was inaccurate,” Votaw said. “There has been no process started with respect to any disciplinary action. Based on the reports we have read, Tiger’s comments related to the impact of the decision. We did not read them as being an unreasonable attack or disparaging.”

Harrington said he did not read or hear of Woods’ remark in his defense and couldn’t comment. He continued to blame himself for failing to keep it in the fairway, which required more thought over how to escape trouble.

“I reacted poorly to the situation, and that’s my own fault,” Harrington said. Later, however, he said Woods was in a better position to speak his mind having won the tournament.

“He can take the moral high ground and say what he wants,” Harrington said. “Having lost the tournament … I’m going to take it on the chin and say it was my mistake.”

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