Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke was speaking at the Costa Smeralda Invitational in Sardinia, Italy


European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke has had his say on the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Clarke, who was hosting the Costa Smeralda Invitational last week, said players from both Europe and USA were facing hectic summers and wouldn’t be fresh heading into the Ryder Cup if they played in Rio.

“Everything has become much more condensed for them because of the Olympics,” said Clarke.

“The requirements on players has become far more intense.

“Guys might like to have a week off or whatever they need to do, but because the Olympics are there now, that opportunity is taken away from them. Personally I’d like the guys as fresh as possible for the Ryder Cup.

Clarke added that the criticism heaped on players such as Rory McIlroy for missing the Olympics this year is “harsh”.

McIlroy cited his fears over the Zika virus as his reason for missing the Games and Clarke said: “He is looking forward to becoming a father and having kids, so I think the criticism levelled towards him is very harsh

“We don’t know enough about the virus and right now he’s doing what he feels is best as each and what every athlete in every other sport is entitled to do.

Darren Clarke

“Golfers are making their decisions based on family lives. And at the moment, a gold medal in golf at the Olympics is not like a major.”

“For me personally golf at the Olympics is not my thing. For me the Olympics is all about Daley Thompson and Carl Lewis, amateur sportsmen at the pinnacle of their career. But I can understand why it is there now and it is wonderful to increase participation. But I am old school.

“Thankfully I’m old enough that I didn’t have to make that decision [to play in the Olympics]. I didn’t have to make a decision on who I was going to play for and if I was going to play.

“The Olympics is different for golfers because while a gold medal is an unbelievable achievement, it’s not an Open Championship, it’s not a Masters, a U.S. Open or a USPGA Championship. They’re our majors. In time, the Olympics will be too – but not yet.”

Clarke also spoke about his role as Ryder Cup captain.

“All eyes are on me and I won’t even be hitting a shot,” he said.

“Captaincy is much more that I thought it was going to be. I had no idea how much extra there was about it but there are two ways of going about it. You can either be very hands-on or let the excellent European Tour do a lot of the work for you. And I want to be more hands-on”

Clarke was speaking in Sardinia, Italy as host of the second edition of the Costa Smeralda Invitational, which was won by Gianfranco Zola.

Gianfranco Zola

Gianfranco Zola teeing it up

There was fierce competition right across the men’s celebrity competition, with Zola being challenged by fellow Italians Alessandro Del Piero and Roberto Di Matteo, former Chelsea and AC Milan striker Andriy Shevchenko, DJ Jamie Theakston and actor James Nesbitt.

All money generated from the Costa Smeralda Invitational and its guests will go to the Road to Awareness campaign in aid of UNICEF.

Meanwhile, the women’s competition was won by former French tennis player Sandrine Testud, who drew inspiration from Ladies European Tour players Emma Cabrera-Bello and Amy Boulden on the practice range.

Cabrera-Bello was praised for her humour – as well as golfing expertise – by winning the ‘Selfie of the Tournament’, whilst Amy Boulden graced the field with an exhibition of consistently long driving.

“I’ve been to a lot of golf days but I can’t remember having more fun than we had at Costa Smeralda Invitational – and importantly we did it for a fantastic cause,” said Clarke.

This year the Costa Smeralda Invitational raised over €65,000 for the Road to Awareness campaign in aid of UNICEF to support its domestic and international humanitarian work.

Tournament Director Jamie Cunningham said: “We are delighted with the success of the second Costa Smeralda Invitational. The feedback from Darren Clarke, the celebrities and all the VIPs has been fantastic and we look forward to building on this success in 2017.