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July 27, 2016
Springfield, New Jersey
JULIUS MASON: Ladies and gentlemen, 2016 European Ryder Cup Captain Darren Clarke is joining us today.
Darren, this will be your 18th PGA Championship that you'll be playing in. Why don't you talk a little bit about your state of the game, because I know you talk a lot about your Ryder Cup responsibilities, but yet you're still able to make a cut and tie for 30 in The Open Championship. So how are you managing both?
DARREN CLARKE: Well, I'm not managing both very well. The Open Championship was obviously very good. I played nicely, but in saying that, I've grown up playing links, so it's very easy for me to nudge the ball around the golf course. I know what I'm trying to do. And the worst weather, the better, and we certainly had some bad weather for The Open. But it was nice. Actually hit a lot of good shots and played nicely.
Looking forward to getting out there this week. I've been here before. Remember quite a lot of the golf course. So it's in fantastic condition. The PGA, they always do such a wonderful job in the setup of the golf course. I think every player is glowing about the setup of the golf course. It's a firm, strong test, but a very fair test.
JULIUS MASON: So while you can easily get it around at an Open Championship style venue, can you easily get it around here?
DARREN CLARKE: I would like to say yes, but we shall wait and see. On the range, my TrakMan numbers are very good. Hopefully that will continue into the tournament.
JULIUS MASON: Ryder Cup, on August 28, nine players will automatically qualify for your team. Two days later, you will make your final three picks to complete your team. You've got the points standings in front of you there. Are you happy with the way it's looking right now?
DARREN CLARKE: Yes, I'm very happy with the way it's looking. Obviously we have, in our automatic qualifying positions right now, at the moment we have five rookies in there, with one of them being the Masters Champion. But those guys are there for a reason. They are playing consistently well. They are keen, young players, and every now and again, there's a turnaround in the old guard somewhat and The Ryder Cup.
I know Davis's team, as it stands at the moment, he's only got one rookie there, so he may be looking to balance his team up, the same way as I will be looking to balance our team up.
With five rookies currently in, I'll probably be looking towards experience to balance the team. You know, you've got the likes of Lee Westwood who has been playing very well again. He's just outside the qualification points at the moment and there are a few other seasoned guys that are right there, as well.
This is a big week, obviously, with everything that can change this week. But we've got a few more tournaments back in Europe, as well, before the top nine are automatically qualified, so there's still quite a bit of time for some of those guys that are just outside the qualification, the automatic qualification, to pushed their way in there. And also for some of the other guys to show some form and push themselves right into obviously my thoughts for a wild card.
Q. Are you guys the favorite or is the U.S. Team the favorite?
DARREN CLARKE: I knew you were going to ask me that. You guys are the favorite. You have to be the favorite, the Americans. You've had a task force. You've done everything that you've done, and rightly so. Davis has gone to great lengths to try and find a winning formula.
You know, I wouldn't expect anything less from Davis. He's obviously doing a wonderful job, and you know, your guys are all playing very, very well. I'm obviously looking at mine, but I'm keeping an eye on yours, as well, as I'm sure Davis is doing to ours.
At the moment, with the teams as we stand right now at the moment, you'd have to say America would be favorites. But that's always if you're going to look off World Rankings, etc., invariably, that's the case. But when you get there, it's 12 guys against 12 guys in match play, and anything can happen.
Q. Davis said that yesterday on paper, the American Team would win, usually, but it hasn't happened that way. Why has that been?
DARREN CLARKE: Why has that been? That's a very good question.
I just think the Europeans have had the run of the greens. I think they have made a lot of big putts at the right time. And you know, the gap in the players, the gap in the quality of the players is so small, that if somebody knocks in a 20-footer at the right time or something, that can make a huge difference.
You know, Davis is doing admirably everything he possibly can to get that 20-footer going in on his side. I'm obviously trying to do the same coming from the European point of view. And whatever two teams lineup in Hazeltine, whatever two final teams are there, I'm sure it's going to be two very, very strong teams and it's going to be a closely-contested contest as it has been.
Certainly we are going there with the intention of playing as well as we can and see what happens.
Q. With your past friendship and the number of rounds of golf you've played probably with Lee Westwood in your life, if it's a choice between Lee Westwood and anybody else, do you have a more secure feeling about picking Westwood?
DARREN CLARKE: No, just because Lee Westwood is probably my best friend out on Tour, that does not come into any of my selection criteria whatsoever for who would be the best pick for The Ryder Cup.
If Lee was further down the list, would I still consider him? Yes. If he's just outside the automatic spots, will I still consider him? Yes. But friendship has no place when it comes to wild cards, and that's part of the tough calls that the captain is going to have to make. Davis is going to have to make those tough calls, as well.
But the fact that he's almost in the team pleases me greatly because he's a European Ryder Cup stalwart. He's very, very experienced. He's been my partner in many, many Ryder Cups. I know what Lee Westwood brings to the table and I know what he brings to the back room, and there's not many guys you'd prefer to go shoulder to shoulder with. He is definitely one of them.
Q. The Spanish players in The Ryder Cup, you have Rafa Cabrera and you have Sergio, how do you see them working together? And there's also Spanish captains or vice captains, I don't know if you have any plans for Olaz√É¬°bal or Jim√É¬©nez?
DARREN CLARKE: Yesterday I completed my lineup with my vice captains and my fifth vice captain is going to be Sam Torrance. He's been a friend of mine for a very long time. I played with him in my first professional tournament, I was an amateur, a long, long time ago. He's a very experienced Ryder Cup player, successful Ryder Cup player, and indeed, very successful Ryder Cup Captain.
So I wanted somebody there who has been through it all before, who has had that Ryder Cup Captain experience part of my backroom team.
Yes, I spoke to Jos√É¬© Maria, but Sam thankfully accepted my invitation to join the team, and I'm very pleased and privileged that Sam is going to be part of it. He's absolutely delighted, as am I. He's got a big heart for The Ryder Cup, and I'm sure that will show through during the week.
In terms of your pairings for Spanish guys together, yes, you're right, there has been some wonderful Spanish pairings in the past. Obviously Sergio is one of the very strong players on the team; not to single him out amongst anybody else, but Sergio has played many Ryder Cups.
Rafa, it will be his first one; if he indeed holds his position in the top nine automatic places, as it would appear he would do at the moment. But certainly that may be a pairing that I may look towards. But either of them would be a good partner for anybody else on the team. Whether there's a Spanish pairing or not, we shall wait and see. But I certainly am very pleased to have both of them on the team.
Q. You said after Troon that you were more than hopeful of going to Hazeltine with three major championships. How reassuring with so many rookies on the team, would it be to look around and see those major champions in the same locker room as them?
DARREN CLARKE: I think it was you that said to me it would be great to go to Hazeltine with three major champions. I don't think I said that, Mr. Facey. I'm a little bit too long on the tooth for that, but thank you for trying. God loves a trier.
Yes, obviously with two major champions, with having Danny there and having Henrik, it's wonderful to have major champions as part of our team. And if we were to have another one this week, that would also be fantastic. But when it comes to The Ryder Cup, every man has to stand up on that first tee, and records don't really count for an awful lot. You've got to stand there and perform. Certainly those two guys this year have done that. They have shown that they have done that at the highest level, and hopefully they will do that when it comes to Hazeltine. I have no doubt they will.
Q. The man in ninth place, Matt Fitzpatrick, as you know, has been really struggling of late. Is that a case of trying too hard to make the team and have you had a quiet word with him?
DARREN CLARKE: Yes, I've had lots of words with Matt. I've been speaking to him almost on a weekly basis. And whilst you're correct in saying he's been struggling in terms of results, his stats have been very, very good. You have touched on it there; he is actually trying too hard. It's a big deal for a young guy, somebody as young as Matt, to be right on the cusp of making his first Ryder Cup, to try and cement that place. He's pushing himself too hard, he's trying too hard. I've suggested to him to relax a little bit and enjoy it.
Certainly I've had 26 years of trying too hard out here, so I know what he's trying to do. But, you know, just because he's going through a little bit of a rough -- if his stats weren't as good as they were, I would be somewhat concerned, but I'm not. He's a quality player. He won not so long ago. He's desperate to make the team, and I'm sure with the way that he is playing, you know, he's going to have another good week coming up very, very soon again.
Q. What's it like for you to see Henrik take on so many of his swing problems and really come through the other side?
DARREN CLARKE: I've known Henrik for a very, very long time. Henrik's one of the really good guys in the game of golf. He's a gentleman. He's got a wicked sense of humor, which he sort of keeps to himself a little bit. But we get to see it now and again. And he's just a wonderful golfer. He's dedicated. He works so hard with his game with Pete Cowen. He's spent so much time; and to see him come through and play in the manner in which he did to win The Open Championship; indeed, I was watching it and listening to it and thinking I'm glad I didn't have to play that well, with Phil playing almost as well as what Henrik was doing, I felt very fortunate I managed to win mine with shooting 1-under or something.
Henrik has always been a world-class player. You've seen that whenever he's performed well in the FedEx series. He's got a very, very strong mental attitude to the game. Nothing fazes him and I think it was only a matter of time before he was going to make his major breakthrough. I would expect him to kick on now and win some more.
He would indeed be a threat to win this week; to shoot the score that he shot in the last round of an Open Championship with Phil chasing him down the whole way, not giving an inch, to win in that fashion can only give him a massive amount of confidence. I'm only thankful that he's going to be on our team.
Q. How much value do you put into chemistry, personality, when filling out that team? And with a guy they call Beef, could you see yourself take on another rookie?
DARREN CLARKE: Personalities play a big part in it. Managing egos is part of the captain's job. Davis will be doing the same sort of thing.
Stats are a guidance. They are not definitive. They are an indication of how guys are playing, of what aspects of their game are suited to which particular hole should we say.
So along with myself and my vice captains, we will decide, hopefully decide, on successful pairings. They have got to want to play with each other. Everybody on our team, they don't care who they want to play with. They don't have any favorites. They don't want to play with him; there is nobody they don't want to play with, which makes my job much easier.
I know someone like Beef who is a character, he's still quite some way outside the qualification points. So as I touched on earlier there when I first spoke about balancing the team up because there is so many rookies, I didn't say I wouldn't pick another rookie, but it would be very difficult for me to do so. So I've got to try and balance the team up as best as I see fit.
Q. Speaking of chemistry, what made you and Lee so good together?
DARREN CLARKE: What made Lee and myself so good together; I think because we traveled the world together for many, many years. We played our practice rounds together week-in, week-out, wherever we were in the world. We understood each other's game so well. We never, ever apologized to each other because we never had to. I knew the strength of his game and he knew the strength of mine, and we both drove the ball pretty well. So we could play in foursomes or fourballs. We just knew each other inside out, and that's why we're so successful.
Q. How far down the list will you go?
DARREN CLARKE: Wouldn't you like to know, James.
Q. Can you tell us about Sam Torrance and why Sam as a vice captain?
DARREN CLARKE: Sam has been a very good friend of mine for a long time. He was a wonderful captain to play under at The Belfry. He, again, was very, very thorough. Everybody that played under him enjoyed the whole week, because it can be a difficult week at times. But Sam put everybody at ease and made everybody feel very, very comfortable.
I think with his knowledge, something may come up during the week at Hazeltine that I may not be expecting. So I think to have somebody of Sam's experience in the back room who has been through everything himself can only benefit me. I don't expect anything to come up, but if something does and I need his wisdom and guidance for, I can't think of a better man to have there.
Q. How do you see Rory's game right now and how well do you think this course here will suit him this week?
DARREN CLARKE: Rory can win any week. He's been very close to playing really well for quite some time now. He just seems to have thrown in the odd, not-so-good round, and the putter hasn't really been behaving.
But Rory is such a talent that he can win anywhere. When you have his ability to hit the ball as far as he does and as straight as he does, he can overpower any golf course. Just because he hasn't won since The Irish Open, I have no concerns whatsoever. It's only a matter of time before he wins again, and it may well could be this week. And if it's not this week, it could be the next time he plays; he's that good.
Q. The experience of the EurAsia Cup in terms of the pairings you put out, and your own experience that you gained from it, how much of a bearing will all that have on this Ryder Cup?
DARREN CLARKE: I don't think it will have an awful lot of bearing, because the team will be quite a bit different. But certainly, it was a very, very beneficial experience for both the guys that did play there and indeed myself with coming to the pairings and the formula that we did to see how guys performed in that team, match-play environment, which we don't get the opportunity to do too often.
I learnt a lot about all the players that week. So from that point of view, it was very, very beneficial. So some guys need a gentle prod. Some guys need an arm around their shoulder and they are all different. I learned quite a lot about the guys there.
In saying that, it was a very easy week to be captain, because they all played unbelievably well, and hence, the winning margin was so huge. But it was certainly something that I think was very important in my progression as Ryder Cup Captain, and I would hope that future Ryder Cup Captains will take on the same role as being captains of the EurAsia Cup, because it is a very worthwhile thing to do from a captain's point of view. And indeed, the tournament has grown from stature to stature and getting bigger.
Q. Has The European Tour been pairing people together so you can test out how they are playing together and how they get along, as was done in the past? And are you going to have Sir Alex Ferguson in the team room again this year?
DARREN CLARKE: I'll answer your second one first. Sir Alex is going to The Ryder Cup. At the moment I don't really have any plans to have him in there. He has certainly kindly offered any advice that I may need. I may have him in the team room at some stage; I may not. I haven't quite decided as yet.
In terms of has The European Tour been pairing people together to play, no, they haven't; I have. I've asked them to do it and I've specifically asked who I want to play with each other and I have been doing that for quite some time.
I think The European Tour have done everything they possibly can to back every Ryder Cup Captain. It's not something new that they do. Whenever we are thinking of potential pairings, and indeed, myself, have been able to decide who I want to play with, just to get a better look at the guys, to get to know some of the younger guys better that I may not know so well; and it's a process that we are very proud to do on The European Tour, because it helps us all bond even more as a team.
JULIUS MASON: Darren, thanks for coming down. Have a great week.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports