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April 19, 2011

Tim Clark

LAURA HILL: We have the 2010 Champion of THE PLAYERS Championship, Tim Clark, on the line with us.
As most of you know, Tim started off with a great season this year, tied for 17th at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and then a T-2 the following week at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Tim has struggled a bit with some injuries, so I know he'll want to give us an update on that and how things are looking for you, Tim, heading into your first-ever title defense of a PGA TOUR event.
TIM CLARK: Yeah, obviously like you said, it was a nice start to the year but unfortunately I got back from Hawaii with an elbow injury. Turned out to -- it looks like tendonitis at this stage, and I've obviously had lots of treatment done and been trying everything I can to get better.
But it's just been a slow process, and I'm hoping that I'm able to tee it up the at THE PLAYERS Championship. Right now, I'm still pretty unsure as to how it's going to be by then. But obviously I will be going out there regardless, to play or not, I'll be there in Sawgrass for the week. So, yeah, I just hope I'll be able to play.
LAURA HILL: Can you give us a couple of comments on THE PLAYERS Championship in general, and what that win last year, as your first PGA TOUR victory, what it's meant to you and to your year.
TIM CLARK: Obviously it was a huge step for my career. I guess really more of a validation for the hard work I've put in and the years spent out there. The fact that it came at THE PLAYERS Championship and on such a great golf course is obviously very satisfying. Certainly something I'll remember forever, and as of now, it's been the highlight of my career.
Yeah, it was just I guess a relief to finally get that win under the belt, but you know, I certainly felt all along that I had the game to win, and I certainly felt I had the game to win on a stage as big as THE PLAYERS Championship.
So again, just very gratifying that it happened there and that I was able to show people that, perhaps I had not won that many tournaments before, but when I did win, I could do it on a big stage like that.

Q. Just curious if you were at all encouraged by the fact you were able to play a few rounds at Augusta; and also you had mentioned that the physios there thought it might be some type of an entrapment of a nerve in the neck area; any follow up to that?
TIM CLARK: Yeah, I mean, I've come back home and continued to work on the neck and try and get that loosened up.
Unfortunately I'm not feeling a whole lot of relief in the elbow. I think it was probably the week of Augusta, a combination of working through the neck and on the elbow, got me able to play, but at no point did I feel very good there.
You know, one of the things that I discussed with the physios; that perhaps it is would be worth trying to play to see if that actually sort of breaks the bad cycle that I've had going and gets me over the hump. Obviously that really wasn't the case.
And after Thursday, I really didn't think I was going to be able to play Friday, but got out there and you know, an hour and a half before the round, we got the arm moving and felt like I was kind of okay to play. But that was more of a case of me being stubborn and not really wanting to withdraw, is what I think happened there.
Certainly I was encouraged by the fact that I could finish two rounds, even though I was still in quite a bit of pain. And certainly encouraged that I didn't shoot a couple of 80s and I was able to play quite well.
I think that I have to go in with the same mind-set into THE PLAYERS. Even though I'm at 100 percent right now, I have to plan on playing and probably go through the same process of, even if it's little sore, get work done and try get to where I can at least compete.

Q. Do you know for sure that the neck is the source or is that still a question mark?
TIM CLARK: It's still a guess a bit of a question mark. But there's no question, it's created a bit of instability to the whole body, and I guess that can result in someone overworking a certain area and obviously it was probably the elbow, using the elbow too much because the neck really wasn't functioning properly.
So you know, it kind of makes sense, and I think it's going to be a good direction to go with the treatment and to get better.

Q. Augusta has been made longer and longer over the years, and I'm just wondering, distance off the tee is not the premium at the Stadium Course, and I was wondering, even if you're not 100 percent, do you think you might be able to steer the ball around a little better and just rely on your short irons, short game and putting that week?
TIM CLARK: You know, probably. The one thing that impressed me about Augusta was the fact that I still drove the ball quite well, and I feel like a huge key to my win last year was the fact that I drove the ball so well. That's really a big key to the Stadium Course.
If it's playing nice and firm, and the shorter player drives it good, you can certainly have a chance in the tournament Yeah, I think the Stadium Course it might be a slightly better fit for me.

Q. Could you talk about what you think of the 16th, 17th and 18th as the closing stretch of THE PLAYERS Stadium Course, what you think about those three holes?
TIM CLARK: Yeah, obviously three great holes, and to be put in that situation last Sunday, you have a different perspective. I always just thought of them as three pretty tough holes, nothing crazy, but leading the tournament going into them, it's a whole different animal. I guess sort of the pressure felt standing on 17 tee, particularly, is something I'll never forget. I guess the fact that I was able to make contact and hit it on the green was quite nice.

Q. What were you thinking when you got down 16 and walked to 17, what was going through your mind during that walk?
TIM CLARK: Well, at that point, you're just trying to calm yourself down. You are just trying to let yourself know that it's really just another shot coming up.
I think the thing I did really well on 17 is, you know, we got a number and I committed to the club that I hit. I think a lot of trouble, guys get in there, and they are not sure of the club and you're either trying to hit a half-shot or trying to do something different. Luckily for me, it turned out just to be a good, full 9-iron, and I think that allowed me to go ahead and just trust my swing and go with it.
But I think the biggest thing would be indecision on that hole. So I guess I was fortunate to get a good number and really feel comfortable with the club that I was hitting.

Q. And what did you think about after you hit the shot, as you're walking from the tee to the green, what are you thinking about? What were you thinking about?
TIM CLARK: Well, unfortunately, there's still a lot of hard work after that. It's just no time to relax. 18 is probably one of the toughest finishing holes on TOUR, and I knew regardless of what I had done on 17, I still had work left.
So at that point, you are still trying to stay in the moment and focus on your next shot. You allow yourself to obviously stop to think about 18, but I think that's probably the reason I won the tournament that week is I was able to stay in each shot that I was hitting at the moment, never got ahead of myself, never thought about winning the tournament, which obviously is what I had done in the past, which cost me winning tournaments.
Those are the few things that you have to do in order to win.

Q. We see that you and your wife had a baby April; can you give us some insight as to how that's changing your life?
TIM CLARK: Yeah, it's been a fun change. Obviously he came on April 1, just a few days before I left for Augusta. The plan was for us to have the baby and me to go to Augusta and then I would take a bunch of time off.
Now with this injury, obviously once I get back to health, I'll be back out playing a lot more than I thought for the rest of the season. So hopefully I'll get better soon so I'm able to go out and play.
But it's certainly been nice to spend this time at home with the newborn. It's our first child, so he's been great. He's been sleeping somewhat, I guess, from what I've heard from other people. It's been fun. Like I say, normally with us TOUR players, when this happens, we miss a lot of this time with the newborn; so it's been nice to be home and be able to help the wife, too.

Q. Do you feel that the exemption for THE PLAYERS Championship is going to help you get through this injury situation in a more relaxed fashion than otherwise?
TIM CLARK: Oh, no question. I played my first eight yours on TOUR without ever any exemptions. Yeah, I certainly realize I've got time to let this heal, and that's been the main reason why I probably come back and tried to force the issue. I've done that in previous years with other injuries and it just ends up spiraling out of control and you make things worse.
I guess I'm in the fortunate position where I'm able to take my time and you know allow myself to try and get 100 percent before I come back out and play.
But it is certainly tough not being out there playing. I've watched a lot of golf on TV the last few weeks. You see guys winning and competing, and obviously I miss that. So, you know, the soonest I can get out there, I'll get out there. But right now my focus is to get better for THE PLAYERS Championship and try to be able to play.

Q. Two really awful follow-up questions, so brace yourself -- us no longer being able to talk about talking about you never having won on the PGA TOUR, now that that's old news, who would you consider to be the best to have not won on the PGA TOUR, and what criteria would you use to determine who that player would be?
TIM CLARK: Wow, that's not something I've really thought about. You know, it's an interesting year this year with so many young players coming up with great games, and a lot of them have already won. You know, you've got Jhonattan Vegas and Gary Woodland already winning this year.
Pretty tough to say. I probably need a list of names to look at in order to make that call. I probably don't know everyone who hasn't really won a tournament.
If I'm looking at someone who I'd want to see win a tournament, I'm going to look at those guys who have been up there for a lot of years and put in the time. You look at a guy like Briny Baird and Harrison Frazar, these are guys who have been out here a long time, certainly had a lot of chances and it would certainly be nice to see those guys win tournaments.

Q. Secondly, if you ever get Sawgrass on a really blustery day and you still have to play 17, I'm just curious if you -- I don't know how many balls you typically put in your bag for a given round, but given the funny things that can happen out there, have you ever been tempted to put more balls in your bag there, as opposed to other courses?

Q. Is that like practicing out of a drop area?
TIM CLARK: I've never practiced out of the drop area, either, no.
I think what happens that week is after you've finished with the ball, the caddie will normally give it away, and I think they keep them in the bag just in case. They probably are more aware of it than us.
LAURA HILL: We would like to thank you for your time. We know you have a busy time ahead of you with the little one at, but also getting ready to come back to THE PLAYERS Championship and defend your title. Thanks for a couple minutes today and we'll see you soon.
TIM CLARK: Thanks.

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