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It would be great to see Clarke play: Woods

Tiger Woods and US captain Tom Lehman believe the Ryder Cup would be a better event if Irishman Darren Clarke is offered a wildcard.

india Updated: Aug 29, 2006 12:35 IST

Tiger Woods and US captain Tom Lehman believe the Ryder Cup would be a better event if Irishman Darren Clarke is offered a wildcard.

World number one Woods touched down at The K Club on Sunday with his Ryder Cup team mates for a two-day bonding exercise -- an unprecedented move by either team.

But while Woods was still on a high after wrapping up his fourth tournament win at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron on Sunday his thoughts were still with his grieving friend Clarke, who lost his wife Heather to breast cancer on August 13.

"It will be huge for all of Ireland to see Darren here considering the circumstances he and his entire family are trying to deal with," Woods told reporters after the US side practised in cold, showery conditions.

"I think it would be good for Darren to play before that to get over some of it. But it is going to be a very emotional week for all of us.

"I am close to Darren. He is one of my good friends so I think it would be great for him to get involved in a team atmosphere. We really are one big family."

Woods, who lost his father Earl last May after a long illness, was talking of the great global golfing family but also included his American team mates in that group.

He added, "Darren is a good friend of mine and good friends with a lot of us on the team. For him to go through what he has had to go through, we don't wish that on anybody."

US skipper Lehman, who led a prayer service for Heather on the first day of the US PGA Championship two weeks ago, also wished Clarke the best.

Lehman said, "Our whole team has thought about him a lot over the past few weeks. We've seen the struggles that his wife and his family have had over the past two or three years and lived it from afar.

"Our wish would be that he does exactly what he wants to do. Whether he chooses to play or not to play is exactly his decision and no matter what he chooses it is the right decision. I know it would be a better Ryder Cup if he were a part of it."

The European team will be finalised on Sunday evening following the BMW International Open in Munich.

European captain Ian Woosnam will announce his two wildcards shortly after the tournament with sources close to Clarke and the European Tour convinced the Irishman will be picked if he feels up to playing.

The Americans flew in early on Monday before heading out onto the course in threeballs, with one rookie in each group.

Woods believed it was important for the whole side to get together for the first time and get to know the course in the kind of typically wet and changeable Irish weather they can expect in three weeks' time.

"We had a good time out there today," Woods said. "We dodged most of the showers but overall we had a good time.

"I changed a couple of things to come here. As everybody knows, my foundation is involved in the Deutsche Bank Championship this week. I had a few things (planned) but I just moved them to later in the week.

"We are here as a team. We are having a good time and Tom is a fantastic captain. We are trying to get everything organised so that when we come back we will be ready.

"It's good for a lot of the guys who have never played here. It gives them a chance to look at the golf course and get a feel for it. We'll come back and when we get our practice rounds in we can have a better understanding of our game plan."

First Published: Aug 29, 2006 12:35 IST