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March 23, 2004

Darren Clarke


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: You started off the season with a aggressive schedule on the Tour, three Top-10's in six starts. You got yourself in position to win just about every other time out there. Start with some opening comments about the year so far.

DARREN CLARKE: Obviously it's been different. I'd have preferred to have more than three Top-10's, but I've had a few weekends off. But it was good to play better last week at Bay Hill.

And I certainly got off to a decent start on the money list for what I'm trying to do. And I'm working hard in trying to get more consistent again. My good is good, but my bad is bad.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: You had the first Top-10 in Bay Hill. You hadn't played well at that event. Talk about THE PLAYERS event, obviously one of the biggest events in the United States.

DARREN CLARKE: We all look forward to it. Obviously it's one of the biggest events in the world, after the Majors. I hope it's not going to blow as hard today in the tournament, otherwise we're going to have a hard time. It's a mentally challenging time. I haven't played the course as yet. I can't really comment on that.

Q. You said a second ago that you liked your position on the money list for what you're trying to do. What are you trying to do?

DARREN CLARKE: Become more consistent and play to that sort of level on a more regular basis. I finished third twice and second last week. I'd like to try to do that as many weeks as I could.

Q. That had nothing to do with where you'd like to finish on the money list?

DARREN CLARKE: I'm trying to play better and become more consistent. If I can do that, that will take care of my finishing position at the end of the year. I'm trying to get better and more consistent.

Q. You are aware right now there are no Europeans in the Top-10 in the world rankings. Is that a lull right now, or why is that taking place?

DARREN CLARKE: I think a lot of the top Europeans at the moment are playing a lot more over here in America, competing on a more regular basis. Because of that, the majority of the best players in the world are here, playing on the PGA TOUR. And it's very difficult to win as many points over here as they possibly could be in Europe.

So because of that, I think that's why there's none of us in the Top 10 at the moment. We've got to get used to courses, get used to different conditions that we haven't really grown up with playing in Europe.

Q. In Dubai, were you concerned with the world rankings?

DARREN CLARKE: Sometimes it's that way. And Todd played fantastic on Sunday. And since THE TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP, he's a great player, so somebody wins the tournament and goes past me, that's fine. I've had a couple of decent finishes.

Q. What experiences have you had here, on this course?

DARREN CLARKE: I think I did okay here last year. I think I finished sixth last year. I had a decent week here last year. But I made it past 17 last year with no disasters.

Q. Can you think of any other courses where you could have as much as a 3- to 4- shot lead with two to play and be far from safe?

DARREN CLARKE: No, there's not many, definitely not many. Anything can happen on 17. You've seen guys with good shots and maybe spinning too much and hop over the back of the green, and obviously you're looking at double straight away. It's tough. With rough as thick, and there's no bailout, you have to stand up and be counted, you've got to play.

Q. What do you think of 17?

DARREN CLARKE: I think it's a great hole for the people to watch (laughter). Sometimes I'd love to be watching it myself. I actually do, one of my early tee times, I go back and get in front of the TV and watch.

Q. Do you laugh at them?

DARREN CLARKE: Depends on how I've done in the hole earlier in the day.

Q. What's your best memory there?

DARREN CLARKE: I don't know. I reloaded twice, I think on 17, which is not good.

Q. Same day?

DARREN CLARKE: Don't think so, I don't think so. Close your eyes and hit it quick.

Q. Does playing on a hard golf course like Bay Hill last week get you ready for this week and The Masters? You look at the top four, Tiger was 60th and Ernie missed the cut, Vijay and Davis didn't finish in the Top 30, which isn't what you expect, which makes picking a winner this week more complicated?

DARREN CLARKE: This course, because of it's a very, very tough golf course, and it's a very tough -- as I said, initially they're very tough mentally, you can hit good shots here, and you're not always rewarded with them, but at Sawgrass that's the way it is. And I think the guy who's mentally strong this week is the one that's going to go out on top. And the guys at the top of the world rankings are not there for the wrong reasons. They're all mentally tough, they can all play, so I wouldn't read too much into that week.

Q. No European has won here; part of it can be it's traditionally a time where all of the guys come over, and maybe for the first time. But more and more guys are playing over here full-time. Is there a reason that this particular tournament --

DARREN CLARKE: Sandy Lyle, so one is better than none.

Q. But the Aussies have got you beat. Is there a reason that more Europeans haven't won here? A lot of you have been close. Padraig and you both had good weeks.

DARREN CLARKE: Monty has had chances here, as well before. It's a tough golf course. There's no getting away from it. It's a tough golf course with the toughest finish in the PGA TOUR. And you know, as well as playing well to win, sometimes you need that extra little bit of luck that carries you through at the right times. You take a look at Vijay, whenever he holed that putt with the putter turned the wrong way on 16, and Craig Perks when he nearly put it in the water on 16, and you need a couple of breaks. That's what I need, whether it's right or wrong. But statistically it doesn't add up, as you say.

Q. How close are you to being where you want to be in terms of your game?

DARREN CLARKE: I'm not bad. I think in Dubai, where I must have cut off the Match Play, I was too tired, I wasn't able to compete, at all. But then I went back home and got working hard on my game, there, back in Iowa, and last week there were definite signs I was hitting it better. I was, on the last seven holes on Saturday and Sunday I was 8 over par at Bay Hill. And if I would have been able to do better on those last holes, I would have had a better finish. I kept getting the big bowl and the small bowl mixed up last week. It cost me a little bit. I'm not far off.

Q. If you could go back to that consistency thing, which I think every player aspires to do that, what makes it so hard? Why is it so difficult to finish consistently, if not Top-10, but at least Top-20 every week?

DARREN CLARKE: Because you don't always make the putts that you want to make, and momentum is such a huge thing in the game. Tiger, when he was playing his best, he made every big putt that he looked at to keep his momentum going. How many 10-footers, 15-footers did you see him make for par? And for me, anyway, if I don't make those putts, then it's difficult for me to regain momentum. And that's one of the things that I've always struggled a little bit.

Q. He wasn't just consistent, he was like winning every week or every other week.


Q. I'm talking about at least not missing a cut or being at least finishing Top-25.

DARREN CLARKE: Sometimes it doesn't go for you. Sometimes it does go for you, and sometimes it doesn't. From my point of view, because I don't swing textbook, and I don't play textbook, you know things are -- when I'm good, I'm going to be good, and when I'm bad, my bad is just not good enough, and that's an area where I've got to try to improve that. The people who play good out here, week in and week out, it's not how good the good shots are, it's how good the bad shots are. And if the bad shots are in play, you're going to do okay.

Q. Do you have an Isleworth update? Are there any lots still available?

DARREN CLARKE: There's a few. We've been looking at a few properties in Isleworth. But we've fairly enjoyed it since we've been there.

Q. If you wouldn't mind looking ahead in two weeks, No. 3 at Augusta, what makes that such a great hole, if you consider it such?

DARREN CLARKE: No. 3, because the shallowness of the green, as soon as that flag goes -- as soon as it goes left, you've got to be so on your number with your wedges or 9-irons, whatever you're going in with the green. And if you bail out and hit it right, then you've got a putt coming down the green, that's probably 15 or 16 on the stimpmeter, so that's why you see a lot of mistakes, a lot of bogeys, because of the severity of the green.

Q. Did you hit driver off the tee?


Q. Did you ever consider it?

DARREN CLARKE: No. I don't know, I just haven't thought about it.

Q. Speaking of two weeks hence, with all the course changes at Augusta, does it place even more premium on the two par-5s on the back nine to make scores and do your damage and do your jobs on those holes?

DARREN CLARKE: Yes, those are the ones you have to pick up shots on, because there are so many tough holes there, as you know. It's very easy at Augusta to run off bogeys, but doubles are easy, you miss it on the wrong side and try to get smart with the chip, and how many times have you seen it chip 30, 40 feet away, because of the slope. Birdies on the par-5s are at a premium.

Q. That being the only major left with a sudden death playoff, do you like that format, and do you think it's fair? And if you had one playoff format to be part of, which one would it be?

DARREN CLARKE: I think sudden death is the way it is. Sudden death is the way that it is in the regular events, so I don't see why it should be any different.

Q. Is it fair? Someone argued --

DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, I can see that point of view, but then the fans want to see a winner come Sunday, and sudden death, they're going to see it.

End of FastScripts.

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