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August 11, 2015

Darren Clarke

Kohler, Wisconsin, USA

JULIUS MASON: Good morning ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Whistling Straits and the 97th PGA Championship. With us right now is 2016 European Ryder Cup captain, Darren Clarke. He's playing in his 17th PGA Championship this week. Welcome back to Whistling Straits.


JULIUS MASON: What's your game like, and what do you think of Whistling Straits?

DARREN CLARKE: I think it's all right. I've had three weeks down in the Bahamas relaxing and playing with my kids. We'll see how my game is.

First time I was here, from what I can remember, you just said 17 times, I'm obviously very old. But I think I was leading the first time we were here. I do like the golf course. It's exciting to get back again, and especially with the form of some of the Europeans, it's going to be good to watch again. Lowry winning last week, and Danny Willett playing well. And Bernd Wiesberger playing well. It's an exciting time.

JULIUS MASON: As captain now, playing in the final major of the season, are you completely committed to your game or is part as captain watching what's going on?

DARREN CLARKE: First week in September when our points start, qualifying start, then I'll start playing very close attention to what's going on. But at the moment I still want to try to play the best I can myself. But that will change as soon as the points start. I'll be more into how the team is shaping up and what's going on.

Q. Has the final qualifying event been decided yet for the points race?
DARREN CLARKE: I'm not sure. I think it's looking at Denmark at the moment, where we're playing next week. I think that has just to be confirmed as far as I'm aware.

Q. You've probably seen the news that the WGC Bridgestone is not going to be on the schedule next year because of the clash with the French Open. What's your view on that? It could create a dilemma for players, especially Shane being the defending champion?
DARREN CLARKE: Of course, and that's an understandable dilemma. I think next year with the Olympics being back in, we all realize how difficult it has been for scheduling issues. So the WGC has been scheduled, which unfortunately clashes with the French, I believe it's the 100th anniversary of the French next year. It's been a mainstay and I think it's one of those unfortunate things.

And it depends what the guys want to do. If they're close to qualifying on the points list or they're close to qualifying through Dubai, it will be a decision, it's a tough decision for the guys to make. Especially, as you said, it's a tough decision for Shane, he won his first World Golf Championship at Firestone, and he may have a decision to make come next summer.

But in terms of what the European Tour has done, I think they've done the right thing by standing beside one of their mainstays of the European Tour. The French Open is steeped in history, around a wonderful venue that we have the 2018 Ryder Cup around. They've showed loyalty to the French Open and rightly so.

Q. You've never played on any course that has got as many bunkers but the course with the most bunkers on, other than this one, that you played on is what?
DARREN CLARKE: I didn't think it was multiple choice this morning. I only got to my bed at half two this morning. I only just got in. St. Andrews, would it be? I don't know, you tell me. You must know.

Q. It's not a quiz.
DARREN CLARKE: I thought it was.

Q. Lytham did have 365.
DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, yeah.

Q. But they're filled in now.
DARREN CLARKE: Not enough of them. But they obviously filled in a few. A lot of the bunkers here are not really in play. I'd like to think they're not really in play. I really enjoyed this golf course the past couple of times I've been here. They've got some really, really tough shots to hit, and I think it's like everybody, it's going to be a very exciting week with Rory back playing again and Jordan Spieth the way he's been playing. And Dustin Johnson, obviously the last time he was here had a little bit of a mistake in the bunker on 18.

But there's a lot of guys playing really, really well right now. Jason Day, as well. There's so many of them. I think we're in for a great week on a great golf course.

Q. If Shane Lowry or anybody from the European Tour came up and asked you what your thoughts were of playing France versus playing Bridgestone, what would you tell them?
DARREN CLARKE: France. From a European perspective.

Q. The second question is, in regards to captains selections, not points, obviously the likelihood would be that most Americans would play at Bridgestone, it would mean higher World Rankings points than it would be in France. What would you do if a European player actually won that event? How would you handle that in regards to captains picks?
DARREN CLARKE: That's obviously a very good question. That we shall have to wait and see, I can't really answer that right now. But I think it's a tough decision for the guys that will be in contention to make the Ryder Cup team. I suppose you've got to look at it how important to making the Ryder Cup team, should it be a rookie, or -- I can't tell the guys what to do, I can tell them what I'd like them to do. But under no means would I try to tell one of my peers what he should do and what he shouldn't do. So that choice will be up to them. All I know is that I'm fully in support of what the European Tour has done to support the French Open.

Q. Just in very general terms, can you give us an idea as to where you are with your Ryder Cup planning? How much of the detail is going to unfold over the next year, but have you done much at this stage?
DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, done a little bit. But we have a big date coming up the end of the September, where Davis and I are at Hazeltine, we'll have a lot of stuff to do there. I know the European Tour have been out to Hazeltine looking at things. But Davis has the first choice on team rooms, hotel rooms, and rightly so, he's the home captain. But when I get there, I'll have the opportunity to look at things and make some more choices then.

But certainly there's a lot of things that go on behind the scene. But in terms of my first and foremost role is to try and do whatever I can to enable the European Tour to have the strongest team possible. My interest is more in the players. We've got a wonderful backroom team in the European Tour looking after the Ryder Cup. I trust those guys implicitly with their decisions that they make. They involve me in them, but I trust them enough that they will make the right decisions for me. My interest is more on what the players are doing, and what their plans are.

JULIUS MASON: As a follow-up, as we talk about the year to go coming up next month, what are your memories of Hazeltine National Golf Club? What do you think of it as a match play venue?

DARREN CLARKE: I think it's going a very exciting match play venue. I played twice there -- again going back to being very old -- I played when Rich Beem won and I played when Y E Yang won when he beat Tiger on 18. I remember the golf course very well. It's a wonderful golf course, a very fair golf course, and I'm sure Davis is going to set it up where there is going to be some risk/reward. I believe they're talking about reversing the nines in terms of accommodating all the spectators, which, 16 is a signature hole going into the water, so they've got to do what they've got to do to accommodate the spectators. I'm sure it's going to be another brilliant Ryder Cup again.

Q. We have the possibility of Americans making a clean sweep of the majors, if they win this week, first time in 40 years. Obviously they're dominating the world rankings as well. Does is that a concern that we haven't had a European winner?
DARREN CLARKE: If you ask me the same question next year, then I may be a little more concerned, because the points haven't start for us. So we shall see. But in terms does it make any task anymore daunting, no, it's a very, very tough task that we as the European Tour have in front of us.

The Americans -- there's a new breed of American players coming through, highlighted by Jordan Spieth, obviously. And those are their wonderful players. Davis is going to have a very strong, possibly quite a new look on the team. But a very, very strong team.

For us to go be the away team on American soil, we're under no illusions how hard it's going to be. But thankfully I'm of the opinion that we're going to have a very strong European team, as well, which will only make it be a wonderful event. But we would be the underdogs as it stands right now.

That may change over the course of next year, when the points -- end of this year, next year, when the points start kicking in. It's going to be a wonderful event. And certainly Americans are going to be very strong.

Q. After your joke there about Rory not returning until next year, are you surprised to see him back here, and what do you expect of him this week?
DARREN CLARKE: No, I'm not surprised to see him back here. He obviously has got a wonderful team around him, and he would have done everything he could to get back as quickly as possible.

I'm sure with an ankle injury he would have been advised not to come back until fully fit. If you injure an ankle and keep playing on it, it gets worse and worse and worse. He's back, he may not be competitively sharp, for obvious reasons, but he's world No. 1. He's done many amazing things in his young career, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him contending this week.

Q. Obviously there's a year to go for your Ryder Cup team, but Shane Lowry's performance, you've won on that course. What do you make of Shane, you've seen him win as an amateur, and now that huge event. What do you think of him?
DARREN CLARKE: Obviously to win a World Golf Championship event, which is just one level below a major, is a huge accomplishment. And Shane's game has been developing over this past few years. He's been getting stronger and stronger.

He's very comfortable playing in America. And I think a breakthrough win for him last week is very important for him at this stage of his career. He's going to gain a massive amount of confidence from it and go forward. I fully expect him to be contending for a Ryder Cup spot next year.

Whether that happens or not, we shall see. But certainly it was brilliant to see how well he played, how well he handled himself down the stretch. He maybe got a good break here and there, but obviously he played fantastic, and was the deserved winner.

Q. Obviously a World Golf Championship is as good almost as a Major Championship, do you see him winning a major?
DARREN CLARKE: If he keeps playing the way he did last week, I think he'll certainly be contending. You need a few breaks, but certainly he's got the game to win. After doing what he did last week, I'm sure he will gain a massive amount of confidence. I don't think there's anything to get in his way. He needs the right breaks at the right time. And hopefully he'll add to the list of Irish major winners.

Q. As a winner of a WGC event, do you see the decision by the European Tour destabilizing the Bridgestone as a World Golf event? Is it a potential contention?
DARREN CLARKE: No, I think it's with the Olympics coming in, it's difficult to please everybody with their schedules. We have a very wide and varied schedule around the world, both -- predominantly with the European Tour. But the guys play all over the world.

You can't please everybody all the time. And with the scheduling of the WGC the way it is next year, the Olympics are only once every four years, it's one of those unfortunate situations that's happened.

Do I think it will demean Firestone? No. Do I think it will make France better? Possibly. I hope so. Because, as I said earlier, it's the mainstay of the European Tour and rightly so.

Difficult decisions have to be made, and part of the decision of the European Tour has made.

Q. In regards to your captaincy, do you know or have you thought much about how you will approach this year differently or the same as Paul or some of the other previous captains? Obviously you're still competitive. You still want to compete. But there's that pull about doing certain things on the Ryder Cup side. I'm wondering, you weren't very specific about exactly what you thought you might do over the next year?
DARREN CLARKE: I'll see how things are coming at Christmastime, things will probably start getting busier and busier with it. I intend to still try and play. Obviously my mind might not be on playing, probably won't be, which could be a good thing for me. But I will endeavor to do everything I can to help the European Ryder Cup team. That's my job, and that's what I'm going to do. So that's going to be first and foremost. But I still want to try to play at the same time.

Knowing me and my OCD, I'll probably be a little bit annoyed with myself if I don't play so well. But the bigger picture is the European Ryder Cup team, not me.

Q. Just to add to what you said, have you sort of altered your schedule maybe to sort of look at guys on both sides of the Atlantic. Are you still intending to play in Russia, and will you play the first tee shot in the qualifying process in Russia?
DARREN CLARKE: No, I'm not playing Russia. My schedule -- because I'm going to play quite a lot after that.

In terms of the other question, I do intend to go to quite a few tournaments that I'm not in next year to go and watch some of the guys that are in contention for making the Ryder Cup team. So I'm going to have a very busy schedule next year, between trying to play a schedule and my Ryder Cup duties. And that's up to Chubby over there to figure out the best schedule for me. But certainly I plan to go to quite a few tournaments to watch, as well.

JULIUS MASON: Darren Clarke. Thanks for joining us today.

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