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WGC NEC INVITATIONAL


August 17, 2004


Darren Clarke


AKRON, OHIO

CHRIS REIMER: Defending champion Darren Clarke. Much like Paul, really good week last week. Talk a little bit about how that translates into coming here where you're defending champion.

DARREN CLARKE: Last week was pretty good. I didn't quite play so well on Sunday, but I hit enough good shots and was pretty pleased with the week overall, especially coming into this week, which is one of my favorite courses. I've just had a practice round this morning. The course is magnificent as it always is. The greens are a lot quicker here than they were last week at Whistling Straits. For the first few holes I was knocking everything about ten foot past, so I'll get used to it and hopefully it will be a good week.

Q. Why is this one of your favorite courses?

DARREN CLARKE: I don't know; it just is. When you get here and see all the pictures of all the previous winners and who's who in golf, it's one of those places that I've grown up watching the tournament. It's just a fantastic golf course, tough but very fair.

Q. You said you came off a practice round. Are the greens quicker than they have been in the past?

DARREN CLARKE: They certainly feel like it. Whether or not that's to do with last week where they weren't so quick, I don't know thatテつ -- I was hitting some of the putts that we know where the pins are going to be, and they certainly felt very fast this morning.

Q. What time did you tee off?

DARREN CLARKE: I teed off at 7:00 o'clock just so I could be here in time to see you (laughter).

Q. Was it part of the case that you couldn't wait to get down here, come rushing down after Sunday because you said it was a bit of a disappointment?

DARREN CLARKE: It was. It was good to get here and have all day off yesterday. I was a little bit tired after last week because I put a lot of work into it, and come Sunday, I was disappointed when I finished.

I went out and played this morning and the course hasn't changed an awful lot apart from the two new tees on No.テつ 2 and No.テつ 11. It's the same golf course with the same challenges, just playing a little bit softer than it was last year, as well.

Q. Did you see any good films?

DARREN CLARKE: I won't go there; I, Robot.

Q. Talking to Padraig earlier on, it wasn't just the leaderboard who felt they could have gone to 8-under or better but anybody who made the cut. Clearly you were disappointed?

DARREN CLARKE: Yes, I was. There were opportunities there. The last four holes on Saturday and Sunday played very, very tough, not just because I dropped quite a few shots at them, but they did play very difficult. They were going to be penalized unless that's what happened. There were a lot of guys that got close to getting up there and finishing 8-under, but you still had to playテつ -- it wasn't quite that easy to get to 8-under.

Q. Can you just talk about being the defending champion and if there is any pressure?

DARREN CLARKE: No, there's no extra pressure of being defending champion. I had a great week here last year, a fantastic week, played really well. It's always good to come back to a course that I played well on in the past. There's some courses that seem to fit my eye better than others, and this is certainly one of them. I'm just really keen to go out and start again and hopefully have as good a week as I did last year.

Q. You said the "who's who" in winners. When you see your name up there, is it a little bit of affirmationテつ --

DARREN CLARKE: I haven't seen it up there.

Q. You can't miss it. Is it sort of affirmation that you do belong in that top echelon?

DARREN CLARKE: I haven't thought about it that way. All the old black-and-white pictures of all the previous champions is great to see.

Q. What's the key on this course? What do you need to do to be successful?

DARREN CLARKE: Drive the ball well, hit your irons well and you've got to putt well. Anything else? And chip well in case you do miss the green.

You've just got to play well. It tests your whole game this week. There's nothing in particular that is any different, you've just got to play very well.

Q. A couple bad holes you had last week like the shank, for example. Are you better equipped to deal with that now than before?

DARREN CLARKE: I was better equipped to go and find it, that's for sure, going up the hills (laughter). I thought I took it quite well last week. I thought my chin wasn't too bruised. I took it on there and carried on and it was fine. I didn't mean to do it.

Q. In the past, though, would you have beaten yourself up over that?

DARREN CLARKE: I would have gotten pretty hot probably, to say the least. But I was okay. I was fine.

Q. When an ordinary player does that it's on their mind for ages.

DARREN CLARKE: The most difficult shot was the next one.

Q. Same yardage, same club?

DARREN CLARKE: Same yardage, same club, and I hit it perfect.

Q. As soon as the shank is gone then you're not thinking about it at all?

DARREN CLARKE: I wish (laughter). It was one of those things, one of those ones that came out of the blue and there was nothing I could do about it. I didn't mean to do it. I couldn't figure out why I had done it.

Q. How many of the next irons were you thinking about it?

DARREN CLARKE: Until I had one hole left to play. I teed up the next one after with a driver, but it was a 4-iron as good as I could hit it into 18, and I flushed it.

Q. Have you seen that swing, though?

DARREN CLARKE: No, thank you.

Q. It has not been emailed to you?

DARREN CLARKE: No. I've heard enough schtick about it from the other players. There's some players that have said I'm going to get some grooves built into the hosels of my irons just to get the flight a little bit better.

Q. Who said that?

DARREN CLARKE: A few different ones. I've told them be very careful, that can come back and haunt you (laughter).

Q. Just curious as to why you decided to lose so much weight, not only for personal appearance, but did you feel that maybeテつ -- the good side is, of course, you look better. But sometimes like with David Duval, he went on the health fitnessテつ --

DARREN CLARKE: I had a shank last week at 17 and now you're comparing me to David Duval (laughter)? I haven't quite gotten to where David has unfortunately gone so far. I wanted to do it and get fit. That's basically what I wanted to do. I wasn't performing because I was overweight and I decided to do something about it. That was it.

Q. I mean, like Craig Stadler, he's carried the weight for a long time and played wellテつ --

DARREN CLARKE: If you keep on shanking 4-irons I might change my mind (laughter).

Q. How difficult is it to keep the weight off now that you've got it off?

DARREN CLARKE: Not bad at all. Still doing the same things and still working out and still being careful what I eat, so it's not bad at all. My wardrobe won't allow me to put any weight back on.

Q. What's a one-word summary for your season so far?

DARREN CLARKE: Average would be fair.

Q. I have a question regarding the Ryder Cup pairings. One of I think the biggest puzzles I've ever seen in golf is that Tiger Woods in Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup went nine straight matches in best ball without winning, he lost nine in a row. Why can't America find Tiger Woods a partner? You've played against him out there. Is he more of an individual guy, not a team guy because he internalizes? I'm trying to sort that out?

DARREN CLARKE: That's a very good question. I've got no idea to tell you the truth. I really can't answer that. I think possibly Tiger, whomever he tees it up against in Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup gets up a little bit more for it possibly because it's Tiger. I think if you take a look at the stats you've just said, if you take a look at the scoring from the people who have been playing against them, I think you'll find out that the scores have been incredibly good. People just must raise their game for it. That can be the only logical reason. I know whenever Thomas Bjorn and myself played against Tiger and Zinger last year in the first match of the Ryder Cupテつ -- not last but the year beforeテつ, we shot 62 or something like that, seriously good scoring for 18 holes, and we won 1-up. I wouldn't say it'sテつ --

Q. Didn't you beat Tiger and Duval as well?

DARREN CLARKE: We did. That was another great game, as well.

Q. Tiger is not a real big back slapper out there. Could that dynamic have anything to do with it?

DARREN CLARKE: No, I don't think so. I think he's trying his butt off as hard as anybody else is. The other guys just have managed to play well in 18 holes match play.

Q. If you're U.S. captain, who do you pair him with?

DARREN CLARKE: I don't know. It's obviously a very strong team, whenever the likes of some major champions are not on the team, Justin Leonard, Todd Hamilton, John Daly, all major champions that are not on the team, there's obviously a lot of other good players on the teamテつ --

Q. You wouldn't bench him?

DARREN CLARKE: It would be nice if he was to bench him.

Q. You've played golf courses all over the world year after year, you see a lot of different things week to week. How big is the difference from Whistling Straits to this place?

DARREN CLARKE: Completely different.

Q. I was leading to a question. Do you think it's great this week to get back on the course like this after that, or no big deal?

DARREN CLARKE: I think it's no big deal. This is a great golf course, and it's no big deal. Different conditions. Very windy last week, and we're back toテつ -- not ordinary golf but more the regular type of golf that we play week in and week out.

CHRIS REIMER: Okay, Darren, thank you very much.

End of FastScripts.

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