Ireland return 'huge' says Paul Lawrie

PAUL Lawrie reckons Darren Clarke could have been Open champion before now if he'd headed home to Portrush sooner than this year.

Golf's newest major winner lived outside London for a long time before returning to Northern Ireland with his two sons, Tyrone and Conor.

"Moving back to Portrush has been huge for him," said Lawrie. "I was talking to Darren and he said he's played a lot of links golf recently. I bet he wishes he moved back years ago."

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The Scot was 30 when he won at Carnoustie in 1999 and reckons Clarke, who is 42, will take winning a major in his stride. He's in for a busy time, but good busy," added Lawrie. "He'll need to get used to not having much time for himself and working on his game. That's what comes with it. He'll love it all though.

"I think the biggest surprise for me was the little amount of time you have to yourself at tournaments. There is so much more to do.

"The first few months, just getting to the range and back was hard going, with so many people wanting to speak to you, wish you well, ask you something. It's hard going - but, like I said, it's all good."