Clarke, who won the 2011 British Open, and DiMarco, who finished second in three of the majors, embark on the next phase of their careers.
The wait is over for Darren Clarke and Chris DiMarco.
With their PGA Tour careers winding down a few years ago, they began looking forward to when they would turn 50 and become eligible to start the next phase of their careers on the PGA Tour Champions.
Clarke, from Northern Ireland, turned 50 on Aug. 14. DiMarco turns 50 Thursday, and both are making their Champions tour debuts this week in the Boeing Classic at the Club at Snoqualmie Ridge. The three-day tournament begins Friday.
DiMarco said he was “hoping to fly under the radar” this week as he makes his PGA Tour Champions debut.
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No such luck.
“I am paired with Darren Clarke and Fred Couples (on Friday), so I will be right in the thick of it,” DiMarco said.
Clarke, always one of the more popular players on the PGA Tour, won the British Open in 2011, one of his three wins on the PGA Tour. He also won 14 times on the European Tour, played in five Ryder Cups and was the captain of the 2016 European Ryder Cup team.
Clarke said he has been getting ready for his debut by working on his game at the Abaco Club in the Bahamas. He was eligible to play in last week’s Champions event in Endicott, N.Y., but decided to debut in the Boeing Classic.
“I had my choice of being on the golf course for my 50th birthday or being on the beach in the Bahamas,” he said. “The beach sort of won that battle.”
DiMarco also won three times on the PGA Tour, and had some near misses in the majors, most notably in the 2005 Masters when he lost in a playoff to Tiger Woods. DiMarco also lost in a playoff in the 2004 PGA Championship and finished second in the 2006 British Open. He played in two Ryder Cups and two Presidents Cups.
“I see this (playing on the PGA Tour Champions) as a bonus for having a good career on the PGA Tour,” DiMarco said.
Neither of the two rookies are really sure what to expect this week.
“I think I’ve got to find my feet,” Clarke said. “I’ve got to come out and figure out where my game is at. I’m not really sure because I haven’t been that competitive for that long. So figure that out maybe the next couple of weeks and see what I really need to work hard on, work on those areas and then try and improve from there.”
DiMarco said he has not been playing much golf because he has been busy moving from Florida to Denver, but he played earlier this month in a Web.com Tour event against players much younger, “and did surprisingly well” despite missing the cut. He plans on playing in six PGA Tour Champions events this year.
“I see it as kind of a warmup for next year,” which will be his first full season on his new tour. “These guys are really good, and I have to get used to competing week after week and getting the competitive juices flowing again. I am looking forward to it.”
Clarke is excited to be a rookie again at 50. His last victory was seven years ago in the British Open, and he was one of the more popular winners of that event.
“(I’m) maybe not the healthiest, nor smartest nor fittest guy, so maybe it resonated a little bit more with the crowd than some of the other ones,” he said. “The crowds were always very kind to me all over the world wherever I’ve gone, so I hope that continues.”