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January 8, 2004

Darren Clarke


THE MODERATOR: Thanks for coming by, Darren. 6-under-par, 67. Obviously things went well for you today.

DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, pretty good. I got away with one on the first, had a good drive, pulled a five. Wasn't quite sure if it was in the bunker, in the long grass down there. Got down, it was in the bunker. Hit it to 10 feet, missed it, took bogey.

Then after that, I played very nicely, gave myself a lot of opportunities. 6-under is a pretty reflection of how I'm playing.

THE MODERATOR: Started out there with three in a row on No. 4. Take us through your birdies.

DARREN CLARKE: No. 4, I hit 3-wood, 7-iron to approximately 10 feet, holed it.

Par 5, the 5th, I hit driver and cut a little 5-wood in there to about 30 feet, 35 feet, 2-putt.

6, I hit driver off the tee to about 15 feet, pin-high right, just off the edge of the green. Just chipped it to, I don't know, six inches.

And then No. 9, I hit 5-wood off the tee, through the fairway, into the rough. I hit 5-wood again, pure lie on the rough, just over the back edge of the green. Chipped it back to about four feet, holed it.

No. 10, I hit 5-wood off the tee again, pulled it into the left rough. Pure lie, hit low, just under the back edge of the green, holed it from the back edge of the green. I don't know how long that was. 50 feet or something.

Q. 61.

DARREN CLARKE: There you go, 61. Thank you very much. Have to be a lot more careful with my shot length. I used to say 10 feet all the time. I don't quite do that anymore.

But holed it from the back of 10, which was nice, because I'd given myself chances over every putt, they hadn't gone in, so that was a bonus.

No. 13, I hit 4-iron off the tee, then hit pitching wedge to about 15 feet, holed it.

The last hole, hit a good drive, good 5-iron, which stopped a lot quicker than I thought. A good feet from 80 feet, 90 feet. You tell me.

Q. 45.

DARREN CLARKE: 45, all right. Thank you. Just missed it. Thought I'd holed that as well. I had a lot of putts today.

Q. What was the 5-iron?

DARREN CLARKE: 208 from the front of the pin, and was 43 or something. Whatever I pitched, I don't know. But I had a lot of chances for birdies. I hit the ball well. I don't know how, I don't know why, but I had one of those days where I hit it very well.


Q. Did you come here in '01 after the Match Play?

DARREN CLARKE: No, I didn't. We had a family illness and I couldn't come. But I have played here a couple of times before, Lincoln Mercury. Played that event twice.

Q. Bay Course or this one?

DARREN CLARKE: Both. I knew what I was coming to.

Q. Do you think it's coincidence that you and Stuart, to play a lot in November and December, are leading here?

DARREN CLARKE: I think the way I played towards the end of November, start of December, you couldn't really describe that as playing. I participated is about as far as I would go (smiling).

But, no, I wouldn't say. Maybe for Stuart, yes. But for me, I don't know. I got home after Tiger's event, put the club glove in the garage, didn't look at it until I was leaving to come over here. I opened the bag, there was mold and everything over the bag, head covers. I had to change those. I had a complete breakaway, which has been good.

Saying that, we did come out here early. We got here last Friday night to give myself as much chance as possible, get over the jet lag. I think I've been averaging about 11 hours of sleep a night since I got here.

Q. Has anyone confused you for Robert Allenby?

DARREN CLARKE: Not quite yet. They just asked me where the other half of me has gone to.

Q. Have you noticed anything tangible on how that's made a difference or any kind of change at all?

DARREN CLARKE: Apart from playing horrendous at the end of last year, nothing so far.

Q. Apart from what?

DARREN CLARKE: Playing horrendous at the end of last year.

Q. Speak English, will you.

DARREN CLARKE: Mainly at Tiger's event. But today walking up and down the hills, I was fine. It was my first ever competitive round, I think, without having any nicotine in my body. That was another first. No beer, no nicotine. Don't know what's going on really (smiling).

Q. You're still smiling. In terms of your swing...

DARREN CLARKE: Towards the end of last year, when I was trying to get myself into shape, my hand-eye coordination went out a little bit, I just got out of sync. Because of that, that was a lot to do with not hitting the ball well. Having the two weeks layoff, coming back, hitting balls here, I seem to have gotten it back a little quicker than I thought. I'm not going to say I'm going to keep doing it for the next three days, but certainly today was very positive from that point of view, hitting the ball as well as I did, and giving myself as many chances. That's the whole reason why I'm trying to get in better shape.

Q. You put the clubs away. Did you continue your conditioning program during this time?

DARREN CLARKE: Uh-huh, yes.

Q. As part of your conditioning program, are you not smoking?

DARREN CLARKE: From New Year's Day. I decided to try and give up on New Year's Day.

Q. Nothing?


Q. No cigars?

DARREN CLARKE: Nothing legal or illegal (smiling). Cigars, I'm talking about, of course, over here.

Q. Are you over the cravings?

DARREN CLARKE: I don't know. I think so.

Q. Was it easier to quit golf than smoking?

DARREN CLARKE: The way I was playing at the end of last year, I'm not quite sure which was one was easier. But smoking has been difficult. I wanted to give it a go, to see if I could do it. I've managed to do it so far. I'll keep on trying to stay off them.

Q. Last year 11 players reached 20 under par. We all know what Ernie did. The way the course played today, can you see something like that again? Is the course a little bit defenseless?

DARREN CLARKE: I wasn't here last year, obviously you guys were. Ernie played unbelievable golf from what I've been told. But I think the course last year was playing much firmer, much faster than it is this year.

I got here on Friday night. Saturday was like a real bad day. Like home, the rain doesn't stop. It's amazing how much the course has dried out since then. If the weather still stays as I believe the forecast is, it will get faster. I don't know if you're going to have that many guys shooting 20 or more under par. It's not quite that easy.

Q. When will we see you again after next week?

DARREN CLARKE: I'm back over for -- when am I back over? Playing Buick, Riviera, La Costa, Dubai, European event, home for a couple days, then back over to Florida.

Q. For Bay Hill?

DARREN CLARKE: We're renting a house, somewhere down around Jupiter. Playing Bay Hill, TPC, week off, Augusta, Hilton Head.

Q. As you look ahead to the June, July, August part of the year, do you think you'll be adding a few more before the majors, as well?

DARREN CLARKE: At the moment, my schedule is pretty flexible. I still have a commitment to Europe. I want to support Europe as much as I can. But I think I have scheduled in trying to play events before and around the majors, as well, as I did last year. I didn't play the week before US Open last year, but that was because of a conflicting event in Europe. But there is none this year. There is an event, but it's not a conflicting one from my point of view. I'll come over and play the week before.

Q. How many PGA TOUR events do you suspect you'll play?

DARREN CLARKE: Possibly 17, 18, in that sort of region.

Q. Same as Tiger.

DARREN CLARKE: Yeah. If I'm doing as well as here after 16 or 17, I'll be playing all right.

Q. Is your long-term goal to play more here or is that a short-term get-ready-for-majors?

DARREN CLARKE: Honestly, I don't know. I'm exempt over here. I've taken up my membership. The whole reason I'm doing what I'm doing is to try to improve. I think to compete more regularly on the PGA TOUR will help me do that. The majority of the world's best players are playing on the PGA TOUR. That's not detracting from the European Tour, because it's still very tough to win over there, as well. The whole thing is to try to improve, give myself a better chance of winning majors. That's what I'm trying to do what I'm doing.

Q. When you said you lost your eye-hand coordination, sometimes athletes who change their bodies.

DARREN CLARKE: I have no big belly to swing around. Imagine, if you have a belly out here, you have to swing around that way (laughter). It's not there.

Q. When you looked down...

DARREN CLARKE: I could give you the wrong answer there (smiling). Yeah, it's a different view.

Q. Did you ever give any consideration that you could hurt yourself working out?

DARREN CLARKE: No, none at all. None at all. I played rugby when I was growing up all my way through school, as well. That's a pretty strong, physical game. Beneath all the blubber that was here before, there was a bit of strength.

No, I never considered that at all.

Q. How many pounds total?

DARREN CLARKE: Just over 30, I think. Try to stay off the scales.

Q. Now that you've given up all these addictive things, are you buying more cars?

DARREN CLARKE: No, no, no, no. I haven't turned that good. Still been speechless a few times with wine and things like that. Not everything. Everything hasn't changed. But I'm just trying to do the right thing on a more regular basis.

Q. So wine instead of beer?

DARREN CLARKE: Wine and gin, all sorts of stuff. No beer.

THE MODERATOR: Great start today. Good luck the rest of the week.


End of FastScripts.

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