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July 13, 2004

Darren Clarke


STEWART McDOUGALL: Ladies and gentlemen, we have Darren Clarke. Darren, you're a great lover of links golf. Is the course here to your liking? Do you think you'll do well this week?

DARREN CLARKE: Yes, I do. I had two practice rounds on Saturday and Sunday, and managed to spend a lot of time on the greens. The course is in fantastic shape. The greens are pure. And I have a lot of good memories walking around. So hopefully I'll get a spark this week and get going.

Q. Is one of the keys this week scoring as well as you can on the first six holes and trying to maintain your score on the back nine?

DARREN CLARKE: Probably the first nine holes, because as soon as you stand on the 10th tee and the wind is coming against you, the par is going to be a fantastic score on the back nine. On Sunday when I played I was hitting 3-irons, 4-irons, 3-irons, 4-irons on every hole on the back nine, barring the 12th, which was downwind. So that's going to be very, very demanding, especially if the wind picks up even stronger on that. You have to make your score on the front nine.

Q. What's the longest iron that you're carrying this week?

DARREN CLARKE: Probably my 3-iron, but it's bent a little bit to be in between a 2-iron and a 3-iron. So it's about a 2 and a half. I keep it as low as I can.

Q. Why bend it?

DARREN CLARKE: Just to strengthen it. If I strengthen it the ball is going to go lower.

Q. Why not take the next club up?

DARREN CLARKE: I've got 14 clubs in the bag. I can't put 15 in, as much as I'd like to. You've got to compromise somewhere. I don't want to put a 2-iron in the bag and have to drop a 3-iron. Bending it, changing the loft, is a compromise.

Q. Do you like this course more than any other course?

DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, I've got better memories on this one than on any other one, but, yes, I do like it. I think it's very fair. If you hit a tee shot down the middle of the fairway, 99 percent of the time the ball is going to finish on the fairway. There's been a few occasions it hasn't been that way for The Open Championship. I think it's a very fair and tough test. Shinnecock for the first two rounds was very tough but very fair, and I think this is even more so, very tough but very fair.

Q. Were you using a driver but changing the weights?

DARREN CLARKE: At the moment I've been testing it at home. I haven't had enough time off, although I've had weekends off. I haven't had enough time off to work on it. I'm still sticking with the original one.

Q. What are your memories of the final day in 1997? Are they happy ones?

DARREN CLARKE: Good ones, good ones. A little bit of a disappointment, obviously. But at the end of the day I didn't play well enough to win The Open. And I went away with the memories of the last, a bit of a shocker in the third. A lot of people reported it was the second. But I got on the second tee on Saturday, and thought, I didn't shank it here, so I knew it was the next tee. But I have a lot of good memories from it.

Q. Are you sure it wasn't the second?

DARREN CLARKE: No, it was the third. At least I think it was the third. I'm not quite as old as you yet, Charlie, but I'm not quite that old, yet.

Q. It looked very far right on the second. We think it was the second.

DARREN CLARKE: I thought it was the third. Much worse shot than I thought.

Q. The memories of that occasion?

DARREN CLARKE: No, fantastic, I got a huge amount of support from home. The crowds were roaring and supporting me as much as they could. I didn't play well enough to win it. But I want to get myself back up there again this week if I can, and hopefully draw from experience.

Q. Being in contention the last day, this would be the third time to really be in contention?

DARREN CLARKE: It was fantastic. The last group off. 3:15 the last day in The Open, it doesn't get any better than that, apart from winning. I want to get myself back up there again if I can.

Q. What sort of changes technically have you made, bearing in mind you lost all that weight?

DARREN CLARKE: No real technical changes, I've told most of the guys before. But my timing has been out, it's getting tedious and monotonous. My timing has not been where it needed, hence my inconsistency. But I've been hitting balls and working away. That's the only thing I can do is keep on practicing, and hopefully it will turn around.

Q. How hard did you find it losing that weight? Was it three stones?

DARREN CLARKE: 45 pounds now, something like that. It was pretty tough. I was in the gym a lot. But I've got in a routine, and I'm quite happy where I'm at.

Q. Can I just ask how your partnership with Pete has been developing over the last couple of months? And when things haven't been going on well on the course, how he's helped you out?

DARREN CLARKE: Pete Coleman has been fantastic. He knows the game inside and out, he's been around professional golf for a long, long time. He's caddied for a lot of great players. I'm drawing a lot on his experience and what he has to say. And I think he's going to be a great help to me this week.

Q. How does he keep you calm?

DARREN CLARKE: He runs as far away as he can. He basically gives me the clubs and when I'm hitting good shots he says good shots. What's the best way to put it -- because I have so much respect for him, I am calm most of the time on the golf course with him. With him all the time, but with myself, because of what he has done, what he's achieved, I have been very calm of late on the course.

Q. You said that this is a very fair golf course. Do you think we're more likely to get a winner here out of the, say, the blue ribbon players or is it going to be somebody from left field again or what's your thoughts on that?

DARREN CLARKE: I think you're going to get -- the best player is going to win this week. And that's not to take anything away from Ben Curtis at all last year, but he was obviously a surprise to a lot of people, but he won the golf tournament. Unfortunately, Thomas made a few mistakes down the stretch. But Ben obviously played well to win. But this week the best player is going to win. It's a stern test, and chances are it will come from the guys at the top of the world rankings.

Q. You think it's probably more likely?

DARREN CLARKE: Probably because it's a very, very fair, tough test. And that's no way taking anything away from Ben Curtis whatsoever.

Q. When we saw you last it was Loch Lomond. I'm happy you're smiling more now than you were then. Can you tell me, did you come here, did you put in extra practice, and was there any good that came out of what might seem bad?

DARREN CLARKE: It was disappointing me Friday because of Barclay's Scottish Open and my sponsors being there, I would have liked to play well. And I wasn't able to do that again. But I came here on Saturday, was here Saturday. And I played 18 holes. I was up early on Sunday and played another 18 holes. And it took me four and a half hours to play on my own to play 18 holes, because people were chipping and putting around every green.

Q. He told me he wanted you to get to grips with the course that you had the beating of. I don't know whether you were aware that he said that.

DARREN CLARKE: No, I wasn't aware of that. He thought I got the beating of every course but I like this golf course. I really, really like this golf course. And I'm very excited about getting to the first tee on Thursday. I can't wait.

STEWART McDOUGALL: Thank you very much.

End of FastScripts.

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