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July 18, 2019

Darren Clarke

Portrush, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom

DARREN CLARKE: It was interesting. Obviously lots of Ryder Cup shots and all that sort of stuff. But that was pretty much up there. I didn't think I'd feel the way I did. But the support, everything from the crowds, just everything about it sort of when I was about to hit my tee shot, wow, it's The Open Championship, we're back in Portrush. It was amazing. It was good.

Q. Charley Hoffman was saying he really admired what you did. And you had a good, strong finish the last few holes.
DARREN CLARKE: Well, I did and didn't. I bogeyed 16 and 17. 16 I should never have bogeyed, because I hit it like it was fine. And then 17 I just hit a poor shot.

But it was tricky out there. We probably had the best of the day and it was still tricky. It was hard to score. And Portrush, in this sort of breeze, it's a challenge. That's just what it is. It's fair but tough, brilliant.

Q. In the experiences in your career how was this one?
DARREN CLARKE: This was a good one. Even walking up the 18th green there when everyone was roaring. Last time I did that was 2011 on the 72nd hole. It was fabulous.

It's obviously not just me. It's Rory, G-Mac, all that sort of stuff. But I think to see all the people coming here, to see how much -- they put their arms around it, it's fabulous.

Q. How many years ago did you start thinking this might happen?
DARREN CLARKE: Probably, I think it was whole time. It was around 2011. It was after I won The Open, and probably all the stuff Padraig had done before that. Northern Ireland was, and still is, thankfully, where the peace process was well and truly down the line and it became -- at that stage it was a possibility. But we didn't really think it was going to happen. But as things transpired, The R&A were very kind to us.

Q. You spoke about playing well this week. You are in a good position.
DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, I hit a lot of really good shots today. The one into the last, the flag just caught the downslope. Another couple of foot it's going to be really close. I hit a lot of good shots, but I hit a couple of poor ones, as well, and wasted a lot of shots.

You have bad shots, you have to expect that. When you have decent shots and you make bogeys, and I did that today. I probably wasted two or three shots out there, which is a little bit frustrating. 71 is not a bad start for me.

Q. Did you enjoy yourself today?
DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, it was great. As I told you, I was going to enjoy myself all week. And I probably smiled a little bit more today than I have been, than I normally do. But I was trying to show my appreciation to all the people around here today. So it was wonderful. It was good.

Q. Did you sleep well last night?
DARREN CLARKE: Oh, yeah, oh, yeah. I had to go through the gym to get into the laundry area to get something, so I swiftly walked past that and had my bacon sandwich the wife had made me at that time.

The alarm went off at 3:15 this morning. So I was up stretching and stuff. I was down there, but just stretching. Up at 3:15 and just looking forward. Went to bed at 8:45 and slept straight through.

But it wasn't one of those where I was looking forward to it with trepidation; I was looking forward to it to enjoy it.

Q. (Inaudible.)
DARREN CLARKE: Actually I had two glasses of wine last night, but nothing else. I was very sensible last night. I didn't think this was a good tee time to miss.

Q. When you take a step back, what do you actually think about what's taking place here?
DARREN CLARKE: It's huge. But it's not me. I think Rory summed it up perfectly: The Open wasn't about him; it was about how far our country has come. How far it's moved forward. The economic benefits of what this tournament is going to bring, not just this week, but the legacy going forward, what it's going to bring to the country.

But you go back and take a look at some of the pictures 20 years ago, we wouldn't be standing having this conversation. And you go down the street, maybe not here, but you see police everywhere, you see Army everywhere, you don't see that anymore. We're very proud of our country.

Q. Standing on the 7th tee, what did you think?
DARREN CLARKE: I just got a little bit carried away. Hit a beautiful drive and then I tried to hit a 4-iron for the second shot and just got ahead of it and hit it a bit right. I had to take a penalty drop. That was one of those stupid ones. You can't hit it that -- it wasn't that far right, I was trying to move it in this way. I picked the wrong one and paid a penalty for doing that.

Q. A marvelous first hour.
DARREN CLARKE: No, it was great. And then after that stupid bogey. The first six holes I was really enjoying them and playing with a little bit of freedom, then after I made that bogey I got a little bit defensive, almost. And that's -- I don't know, I was trying to not make mistakes, as opposed to playing a little bit better. And then I'd have spells where I'd hit a couple lovely shots and make birdies and do some stupid things and make bogeys. I guess that comes with being 50, really.

Q. Were you nervous?
DARREN CLARKE: On the first tee this morning a little bit, and then on the last. There's always nerves. If any professional golfer tells you they haven't got nerves when you start a tournament, you're in the wrong job.

It was more emotional than I thought it was going to be, to be honest. I knew the golf course was going to be fabulous. I think you guys know better than me, after having spoken to all the players and stuff, they're really enjoying the golf course. It is a proper, fair test of golf. The scores are going to show that, not just today but at the end of the week.

It was one of those things that I was very proud to be standing on that first tee hitting the first shot.

Q. What will you do now?
DARREN CLARKE: I've got to go hit a couple of shots I didn't like. I'll go down and practice a little bit. Then I'll do what I used to do in The Open and sit there and watch it all afternoon, like any sports fan would do. That's what I'm going to do.

Q. (Inaudible.)
DARREN CLARKE: I think so. I think it does. And we're very fortunate that two of the top-ranked courses in the world in Royal Portrush and Royal County Down. It's up to you guys to say whether the tournament has been a success or not. But certainly from a player's point of view, my point of view, I can only see positives about it. Every stand is full when you look around, that can only be a good thing. The buildup to it, the hype. You can't get a ticket.

Q. (Inaudible.)
DARREN CLARKE: Of course not. Yeah, I know. Yeah. Well, hopefully the decision is to make those choices for those big sporting events can take a look at this and look upon us favourably going on down the line.

Q. Did you have any words of wisdom for James?
DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, we talked all the way around. He played really nicely. He was really good. I was egging him on and keeping it going.

Amazing to think, I said to him on the 7th tee, I said, This is something that just came into my head, James. I don't know if this is good or bad. You come through my Darren Clarke Foundation, and on the 7th tee I'm leading and you're second. There's something not quite right about that. We had a right good laugh and chuckle about that.

James played beautifully. A really nice young man.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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