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March 19, 2004

Darren Clarke


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Darren, thanks for joining us. Two solid rounds, 66-68. Just start with some opening comments about the first couple of days here.

DARREN CLARKE: Well, I think I played better today than I did yesterday. I hit fewer bad shots and similar amount of good shots. Overall it was a little bit better today. A little bit of a disappointing finish on the last green there, but so be it. Only two shots back going into the weekend which is not bad.

Q. Comfort level on this course; seems like you're playing it well?

DARREN CLARKE: I was doing okay. As I just said, I hit two shots, had a good chance. Got a little too aggressive on the first putt, I really well and missed it coming back. Any time you have a 10-, 12-footer for birdie and walk off with a bogey is never good. I was trying to catch Shigeki as opposed to being two back. Overall, enjoying the golf course more than I have done in the past.

Q. If you had to assess your year so far on the U.S. Tour, you haven't made a cut at a cut event and yet you have two third place finishes, how would you take a look at that if you were looking at it from our side?

DARREN CLARKE: If you take a look at it from your side, the two third place finishes, I've been in the two best-field tournaments so far this year. That's the way that I look at it. (Laughter.) Plus a million bucks, so that's definitely the way I look at it. (Laughter.) So make of it what you wish.

I would have liked to have played better, but, you know, as I said, Mercedes, all the winners were out and then a World Golf Championship event again. So it's not all bad.

Q. You had mentioned at Match-Play and a little bit yesterday about grinding your way through, are you reaching a point now, do you think that you're doing less grinding and more -- coming to you a little bit more?

DARREN CLARKE: I don't know. I still think I have to grind a little bit out there because I'm not quite on top of my game, but not far off, but just not quite there.

I'm getting better at grinding than I used to be. It was never really one of my strengths before.

Q. Just to follow up with that, where are you falling a little short? Where are you not on the top of your game?

DARREN CLARKE: I'm just not striking the ball the way I want to at the moment. That's basically it. I'm not hitting as solid on every shot as I would like to.

Q. The adjustments you talked about at Match-Play that you were working on with Butch, where are you in that process, do you think?

DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, fairly good. Getting there. Slow, but I'm getting there.

Q. What's different about this course this year, beyond the fact that they had some big rain this week?

DARREN CLARKE: The greens are a little bit softer. So I think previous years here, the greens have been so hard and the front of the greens have been so soft; it's been very, very tough to keep the ball on there. I think these past couple days, the greens have been not a little bit soft that you can hit shots in there and hold the green.

Q. If we continue with this good Irish weather, what happens by the time we get to Sunday?

DARREN CLARKE: It's going to be a lot tougher. A lot tougher.

Q. Like previous years?

DARREN CLARKE: Not quite. I don't think so. I don't think it's going to get quite that tough. But not far off.

Q. Why do you think you're getting better at grinding out a tough day?

DARREN CLARKE: Got no idea. If I had any idea why, I would have tried to figure it out years ago and been better at it than I am now. Maybe just because I'm getting a little bit older and don't get as annoyed, as perturbed as I used to be.

Q. Have you learned any secrets to not getting perturbed?

DARREN CLARKE: No. Just getting older.

Q. I understand you're renting a house over here, how do you think that will help you this week, next week and then leading into Augusta?

DARREN CLARKE: Well, there are is a lot of Europeans and other golfers in the world that try and compete before they build up to Augusta. For me I've been doing this for five years or something like that. This year, I decided to bring all of the family over and rent a house in Isleworth and that's what we've done. It's working out great so far.

Q. Nice house?

DARREN CLARKE: What do you think? (Laughter.)

Q. Enough to stay more often?

DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, it's a nice house.

Q. You say it's working out well. Do you feel like your game is working into as good of shape as it's ever been before THE PLAYERS and the Masters?

DARREN CLARKE: I wouldn't say quite as good shape as it's ever been, but it's certainly starting to feel a lot better than it has done for quite some time.

Q. Shot of the Day would be the ninth?

DARREN CLARKE: I had one just as close I think on 15. So it's always nice to get up there and see them that close that you can just tap them in.

Q. What were the clubs?

DARREN CLARKE: No. 9 was a 7-iron from the middle of a sandy divot, right in the middle of it. No. 15 was sand wedge.

Q. What is that thing on your wrist?

DARREN CLARKE: It is a mechanism called a watch. It tells the time. (Laughter.)

Q. Looks like you could fly home in it.

DARREN CLARKE: Well, it was easy to tell the time on this one. Big enough, can't miss it.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Let's go through your card.

DARREN CLARKE: The first, I hit driver, 8-iron to about 25 feet and holed it.

4, I hit driver, 3-wood about a yard short of the green, chipped up to six inches.

10, hit a good tee shot. Just pulled a 9-iron left and long. Chipped it down to about four feet past and missed it.

12, driver, 3-wood, just off the edge of the green pin-high about 20 feet, chipped it three feet past.

16, driver, 7-iron just pitched right of the front edge of the green, spun back down just off the edge. Again putted up to three feet. Holed it.

18, I hit two nice shots there to about 12, 15 feet.

Q. What was the club there?


Q. I'd be curious, from a European perspective, what kind of impact Arnold Palmer has had for you? What kind of influence has he been?

DARREN CLARKE: He's famous in golf all around the world not just in America. The influence that we see Tiger having now, obviously Mr. Palmer had that sort of influence whenever he was coming through. He got a lot of people interested in the game of golf that probably otherwise wouldn't have done so because he was so exciting and great to watch.

Q. He was way before your time, wasn't he?


Q. Even as a kid?

DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, he was just before my time. Either that makes me sound younger or him sound older, not quite sure.

Q. We'll be the judge of that.


Q. This being his 50th Masters and his last one, can you imagine a Masters without him?

DARREN CLARKE: It will be different. He's one of those legends of the game, one of the guys from the top bracket of legends of the game, so it will be certainly different.

Q. Have you ever played with him?

DARREN CLARKE: Unfortunately, no, I haven't. Unfortunately not.

Q. You looked back when you were on the sixth green, you looked back to watch him play a second shot, did you find yourself doing that on a few occasions?

DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, a couple of times I turned him around watched him where he was hitting and looking at what he was doing, trying to plot his way around the golf course. Obviously he doesn't take the lines that some of us guys do. He's got to play the course a little bit differently, so I was just watching how he was doing it.

Q. Did you see what he did on 18?

DARREN CLARKE: I was too pissed walking off the tee to see what anybody else was doing apart from myself, thank you. (Laughter.) A pro putting from 12 feet, birdie, missing for bogey, yeah, standing around and seeing what everybody else is doing, yeah, right. (Laughter).

Q. Even though you've played over here a lot, do you still feel there's somewhat of a learning curve to these courses, the way the PGA TOUR is?

DARREN CLARKE: I think I've been playing over here long enough now to know what to expect. Most of the courses that I'm playing this year in my schedule I've played before. There's very few new courses that I'm going to.

You know, I haven't played anything new for quite some time, so it's probably not as difficult for me than some of the guys who have played.

Q. How hungry do you think the European audience is for another European major champion, and how hungry are you to be that guy?

DARREN CLARKE: I would love to be that guy. I've always said that. I would love to win a major.

But first of all, I need to put myself in a position where I can challenge for another one again. I think Europe, it has been a long time now since we've had a European winner of a major and I think it would be another great boost for European golf if we were to have one.

Q. This being a Ryder Cup year, how much is that on your mind right now even this early?

DARREN CLARKE: None. None whatsoever. Not at all. Because hopefully I make the team; and if I wasn't to make the team, then I definitely wouldn't deserve to be there. I definitely would not want to be playing there if I wasn't good enough to qualify for it. So it has no bearing whatsoever.

Q. Shigeki was in here this morning and said that he feels that he has a chance if he's up by 8 on Tiger after three rounds; what's your comfort zone with Tiger when do you feel safe with Tiger?

DARREN CLARKE: Whenever you give him the money and the trophy on Sunday afternoon probably.

You never know quite what Tiger is going to do. He doesn't seem to have as many of his fantastic comebacks as he used do but you never really know. I think Shigeki and myself and everybody else that's in between Tiger and ourselves would not be worrying particularly about him. We will be trying to play the golf course the best we can. So, you know if you start looking toward other players, you're in the wrong profession.


End of FastScripts.

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