Captain Clarke has eyes on the Thailand Golf Championship

Bangkok: European Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke is expecting a productive week when he takes his place in the field for the fifth edition of the Thailand Golf Championship, which will be played at the award-winning Amata Spring Country Club in Chonburi from 10-13 December.

Clarke, who memorably claimed The Open at Royal St George's in 2011, will be making his fourth appearance in the US$1 million Asian Tour showpiece and he will line up alongside a collection of the world's finest at Amata Spring, including close friend and two-time Thailand Golf Championship winner Lee Westwood, 2013 champion Sergio Garcia, last year's runner-up Martin Kaymer, two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson and Denmark's Thomas Bjørn, who is the latest international star to add the event to his schedule.

A strong local challenge for the title is expected from the Thai duo of Thongchai Jaidee and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, both of whom are enjoying sensational seasons on the European Tour.

Next year will see Clarke captain Europe at the Ryder Cup, to be played on American soil at Hazeltine in September, and also at the EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM, which returns to Malaysia in January, and the Northern Irishman is hoping to use the Thailand Golf Championship to assess the form of a number of his potential players, as well as that of representatives from the two teams who will be opposing Europe.

"The Thailand Golf Championship is always a great week but this time it is going to be extra special as it gives me a chance to talk and spend time with the likes of Lee, Sergio, Martin and Thomas and to get their input, while at the same time seeing how the Asian guys are performing," said Clarke, who represented Europe at the Ryder Cup as a player on five occasions.

"Thongchai and Kiradech have obviously been playing some great golf – and I'm sure they'll be a feature of the Asian side in a couple of months’ time in Kuala Lumpur – so I'm hoping to take away some insights that we can use to our advantage.

"With Bubba also in the field, it gives me an early look at someone who I'm confident will be representing the United States at the Ryder Cup. All in all, it's going to be a very useful week for me," added the 47-year-old Ulsterman.

Of course, Clarke will also have his eyes on the Thailand Golf Championship trophy, as he goes in search of adding to his impressive career total of 22 tournament wins around the world.

"The game is coming together and Amata Spring is certainly a layout that I enjoy playing, so I'm looking forward to enjoying a great time both on and off the course," said Clarke, who has played 20 events on the European Tour in 2015. "I would like to have been a bit more consistent. I'm shooting some decent scores but I'm also throwing in the occasional high number, so if I can remedy that by the time I arrive in Thailand, I'll be in good shape."

Meanwhile, Bjørn, who will be making his debut at the Thailand Golf Championship, is looking to recapture the form that earned him a place on the European Ryder Cup team on three occasions – in 1997, 2002 and 2014.

"I have only heard amazing things about the Thailand Golf Championship, and with the quality of players involved, there's going to be a lot of world ranking points available," said the 44-year-old Dane, who has 21 professional victories to his credit. "Playing well and contending at Amata Spring would be a great way to end the year – and it would give me a boost heading into the season ahead."