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April 6, 2004

Darren Clarke


LARRY PUGH: Ladies and gentlemen, we'd like to welcome Darren Clarke. Darren Clarke was the first round leader of the 2003 Masters with a great round of 66. He's been on the last three European Ryder Cup teams, and this is Darren's seventh Masters appearance.

Welcome, Darren, to Augusta.


Q. What have you done to your thumb?

DARREN CLARKE: What have I done to my thumb? Cut it.

Q. Just now?

DARREN CLARKE: Two days ago. There's a big slice down there.

Q. How?

DARREN CLARKE: You don't want to know.

Q. Yes, we do (Laughter.)

DARREN CLARKE: Taking a label off a new piece of clothing, basically. Thank you very much.

Q. Smaller size than the old one?


Q. How is it affecting you?

DARREN CLARKE: It's fine. It's okay.

Q. Have any stitches?

DARREN CLARKE: No. I have to hide my thumb now (Laughter.)

Q. At least it matches.

DARREN CLARKE: You think I put this one on by mistake? (Laughter.)

Q. How different is the course, Darren, to the one you shot the first round score on last year?

DARREN CLARKE: Hugely different. Obviously it's a lot the course is a lot firmer. The ball now is running on the fairways and sometimes running into the first cut, which is making it a lot more difficult than going at the green. The greens are starting to firm up. They are very fast. You know, last year, they tried to get the greens up very quick, but they didn't get them quite as fast as I'm sure they would have liked, and the putts weren't as difficult as what they are this year.

There are some places where you hit it now and it's just impossible to get close to the flag. There are always those places here at Augusta, but there's more of them this year because it's firm and fast.

Q. Which would you prefer?

DARREN CLARKE: I don't know. I think I've only played here twice when it's been firm and fast. I think the rest of the time it's been playing long, but certainly more difficult this way. Hopefully I'll like it more.

Q. Do you think on Sunday it's going to be more for the leader holding on versus, say, some of the years in the past when Nicklaus would shoot 30 on the back nine and there would be all of the fireworks and theatrics because it's become so hard out there now?

DARREN CLARKE: Yes, possibly. Anyone who gets himself into that position on Sunday would have been playing well, so they wouldn't be trying to hold on as much as keep playing the way they are.

Your chances of making birdies are diminished, but they require a much better shot to get it close to some of the holes.

Q. You're obviously in better shape than you were last year. Was that directly tied to fatigue you felt last year?


Q. So you left here thinking, "I need to get in "

DARREN CLARKE: Yes, I did. Not an excuse for the next three rounds after my first round last year, but something I came up with at the end of it.

Q. So you anticipate then

DARREN CLARKE: Hopefully I'll be in better shape. If I can shoot 66 on Thursday, I'll be very pleased, to be able to cope with the hills.

Q. Can you describe your regimen, what you went through to get in shape?

DARREN CLARKE: I've been in the gym six days a week, two hours a day, basically. No beer. I'm very careful about what I'm eating. That's basically what I've done.

Q. Were you reluctant to embrace this fitness do you think of it as an overblown phenomenon on TOUR?

DARREN CLARKE: Well, probably 35 at the time, or whatever I was, 35 at the time when I started it, I haven't embraced it for about 17 years. So took me a while to get around to it. I thought I could get by with what I had. But I think if you take a look at all of the guys on the top of the world ranking, they are all very fit, and that is something that eventually got into my head. It takes a lot to push me sometimes, and this was reality, something that I had to do to try and improve.

Q. Is there a danger of going too far in that respect?

DARREN CLARKE: Are you trying to tell me I'm looking all right? It did sound like that in a roundabout sort of way (Laughter). Thank you, so are you.

Q. Is there a danger when you lose so much weight that the golf swing

DARREN CLARKE: I have found that out, yes. I think I am okay where I'm at at the moment, and hopefully this is where I plan to stay, at the size where I am at the minute. But a few people have gone too far and it has had an effect on their game. I think some of my play early this year has been because of that change in shape a little bit and trying to adapt my swing to it, but I'm starting to feel more comfortable again.

Q. How helpful has Butch been in recognizing your new shape and what the swing has to be to go with it?

DARREN CLARKE: Butch has been fantastic. I was with him in Vegas earlier in the year, and we worked on a few different things. But he was one of the main guys that kept on in my ear all the time, you have to lose weight and get in better shape and stuff. He's pleased with the work I've done and working very hard at the moment.

Q. What is it that makes him so successful?

DARREN CLARKE: He's a very laid back sort of guy when you get him in the right mood. But we're very comfortable in each other's company. He knows everything there is to know about the golf swing and the way that he puts it over is very for some of us like myself, it's very easy to understand. So the easier he makes it for me, the better hopefully I'll play.

Q. Could you just run through your regimen on those two hours a day, how much walking, how much running or whatever?

DARREN CLARKE: It varies from day to day. But usually, three days a week there's a lot of cardiovascular work and machines, treadmills, bike, steppers, whatever.

Then after that, there's a lot of work on the Swiss ball, work with medicine ball, and there's a lot of stretching after that. Two hours sounds like a long time, and sometimes it is; it feels like a long time but usually it goes in pretty quick.

Q. If rain doesn't negatively impact the golf course, do you think the winning score will be around par?

DARREN CLARKE: I think it could be pretty close, yeah, because it's so difficult.

You know, I think this week, everybody is going to miss it in the wrong places at times. Everybody is going to have a 3 putt because it's so difficult. The greens are so difficult. I know these past few years, the winners usually don't have that many 3 putts, but I think this year, everybody is going to have to have them.

So it's a very, very difficult challenge. There's going to be a lot of grinding this week, a lot of people just keep on going, make the best out of the round as you can.

Q. Did I understand you to say you've quit drinking beer altogether, and if so, how do you compensate?

DARREN CLARKE: I find the white spirits much better. I haven't given up on the alcohol totally (Laughter).

Q. What insight can you lend us to the Tiger Butch relationship? So much has been written that since Tiger left Butch he has not won a major. How much stock do you put into that?

DARREN CLARKE: I'm not going to sit here and repeat Butch's perspective, am I? They are both still friends. They got to where they are both happy to go each other's directions, and sometimes that happens. Tiger is working very diligently on his game, working very hard. I saw that for myself last week in Isleworth. He spent a lot of time hitting balls, chipping, putting, doing everything.

You know, it's like some things just come to an end.

Q. How often do you work privately with Butch?

DARREN CLARKE: Whenever I can. Privately might be two or three times a year if I'm in Vegas or he's over in Europe or whatever and a lot of times at tournaments over here. But, you know, he watches the Golf Channel a lot, so he sees a lot of the European golfers. If I'm playing over there, he watches how I'm swinging and how I'm doing and then corresponds with me via telephone as soon as I'm finished.

Q. Could you specifically say, please, what it is that is different as a result of having lost weight? Is it balance, is it feel?

DARREN CLARKE: A bit of everything. Balance is one, obviously because there isn't as much. There isn't three cans, three tins, whatever you call them, three trays of beer in front of me when I'm swinging.

Q. Cases.

DARREN CLARKE: Cases of beer in front of me when I'm swinging (Laughter). But obviously balance and feel have just changed.

Q. And were you surprised at how great the change in feel was?

DARREN CLARKE: Yes, I was. But that sort of thing I just have to add just to. I've given all my old clothes away, so I have none to go back to. I have to stay the same size as I am (Laughter).

Q. You left Sawgrass believing there were some areas of your game that needed particular work. What did you do last week?

DARREN CLARKE: I worked at Isleworth very hard. I spent a lot of time hitting balls, chipping and putting, worked a lot on trying to keep my height on the swing. I was losing my height and consequently hitting a lot of shots heavy. It was something I had to address. I worked very hard on that last week.

Q. This is the 50th and final year for Arnold Palmer here. As someone who grew up on the other side of the pond and heard the name, can you tell me what you think of when you hear the name Arnold Palmer perhaps what he meant to you?

DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, it's Arnie's Army, isn't it? All of the people following and supporting him, there's many, many great players before Arnie, but the following he had, the support he had brought a lot of people into the game of golf. I don't think that otherwise would have been done.

It certainly helped make the game grow bigger and bigger. You know, sad to see him playing his last one, but he's been an amazing man for a long, long time. He's one of the Legends of the game.

Q. Did you ever play with him?

DARREN CLARKE: Unfortunately not, no.

Q. Speaking of your new clothes, it looks like you sort of stepped it up sartorially?

DARREN CLARKE: Thank you very much (Laughter). I was doing one where did we do press conferences?

Q. Sawgrass.

DARREN CLARKE: This lady was sitting there, what did she say, she said something, what are those clothes you're wearing or something.

Q. The trousers?

DARREN CLARKE: Yeah it was about the trousers.

Q. You're still wearing those?

DARREN CLARKE: Yes, I am (Laughter). Her opinion mattered a lot to me.

Q. That was me at Sawgrass.

DARREN CLARKE: Oh, was it you? I thought it was somebody else (Laughter). I have a tailor at home who is making all of my clothes for me. He's using a lot less fabric than he used to use before.

Q. You talked before about how this golf course is playing so much different than the last two or three years. Can you talk about your education here, about things that you've learned how to play certain holes that you obviously didn't know when you first arrived here? And is this a golf course, obviously much more so than others, that experience is a huge factor?

DARREN CLARKE: Well, I think if you take a look at the winners, there's very, very few first time winners here. Correct me if I'm wrong. Was Fuzzy one? Was anybody else? So there's not many people that come here and win for the first time.

You've got to know where to miss it and where not to miss it. Sometimes I know where to miss it and where not to miss it, and I still hit it there.

But you've got to try and figure out where you can get it up and down from. If you know that, it's certainly a helping hand. There are certain putts you can have a go and and some you can't. There's a pin back right on 17 that unless you've been there and putted off the green like I have done before, you're not really aware of how quick it is, how fast it is when you get up on top. There's a few scary pin positions that certainly I think for me, having played here quite a few times before, I know where they are and I know where to be more cautious.

Q. Did your month at Isleworth expire yet?


Q. What's your status?

DARREN CLARKE: I'm still a member. They haven't kicked me out yet. We are currently looking for a house within there, within Isleworth.

Q. Psychologically it's obviously going to be tough out there this week with the course playing tougher than normal. Is that an area of your game that you feel you've improved and developed?

DARREN CLARKE: Why do you keep asking me those questions? I hope it's getting better. It will certainly be tested this week (smiling).

Q. Are you still working with Bob Rotella?

DARREN CLARKE: A little bit with Bob and a guy called Carl Morris back at home in Europe, as well.

LARRY PUGH: Darren, thank you very much and good luck.

End of FastScripts.

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