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August 24, 2003

Darren Clarke


SCOTT CROCKETT: Thanks for waiting, everybody. Darren, many congratulations. Darren, you said yesterday you wanted to go out and enjoy yourself and have fun. I presume this is possibly the most fun you could have had. What does it feel to be the NEC champion.

DARREN CLARKE: It's fantastic to win another World Golf Championship after last one. The match play was still fantastic to win, but this one being stroke play is every bit as special as the last one. To be only the second person to win two of these behind Tiger, anytime you follow anything behind Tiger it's pretty good, so I'm delighted to have won again.

Q. You said it was important to get off to a good start. The eagle at the second certainly did that. Did you feel you were on your way from then on?

DARREN CLARKE: Yes and no. It was great to make eagle on 2, but the course is that difficult that there's still an awful lot of playing to be done. The quality of the players out there, it's only a step in the right direction, but fortunately I managed to keep on moving in the right way.

SCOTT CROCKETT: We'll just get your details. What was the eagle?

DARREN CLARKE: Driver 6-iron to about three feet.

4, I hit driver, 8-iron to about ten feet.

5, pulled a 6-iron just off the green up along the color of the rough and didn't hit a good chip, left it short and missed it.

9, I hit a very good drive and a little sand wedge into about 15 feet, holed it.

11, I hit 3-wood, sand iron to about eight feet, holed it.

13, I didn't cut my tee shot enough into the rough, played a pitching iron and a 7-iron, landed 30 yards short of the green, rounded it up to the back edge, holed it from 40 feet.

15, those horrible bogeys. I got five shots ahead and didn't know quite what to do. I pulled a 7-iron into the bunker, hit a good bunker shot to six feet, missed it.

16, good drive, 9-iron layup, lob wedge over just off the back edge of the green, decided to pull it. It was just six inches off the fringe and it didn't quite come out. I missed it from 12 feet for par.

17 was 3-iron, 8-iron to 15 feet and missed it.

And then the last one I hit big driver right down the middle and I pulled my sand wedge right off the green and I chipped it from there and I had three or four from there.

Q. What was the yardage on that second shot?

DARREN CLARKE: 110 to the flag or something like that, 110, something like that. I don't know, it was a sand wedge in my hand and I thought I could get down in 5 from there with a sand wedge in my hand.

Q. How long was the second shot at 2?

DARREN CLARKE: 181 to the flag uphill into the wind at that stage into the breeze.

Q. I think Tiger got to within two, shortly before the turn. Were you watching the board at all or were you aware of the run?

DARREN CLARKE: No, I wasn't really looking at the board at all all day. As I said yesterday, I wanted to see how I could play and if I played well enough I would have a chance, and that's what I managed to do today. I wasn't really paying any attention to the boards until maybe about 13 or so, whenever I holed the putt on 13, then I thought I was doing okay at that stage, so I had a look at it then.

Q. What was tougher to win, the Match Play or this? And is any one more meaningful than the other?

DARREN CLARKE: I don't know which one was more tougher. Obviously the match play was head-to-head against the best players in the world, so that's never going to be an easy game. But fortunately, that day I played as well as I could do and Tiger didn't, whereas today I was competing against more guys, as well as Tiger, and I managed to get off to a very good start and play it pretty well overall I think today.

I managed to do what I had to do, so I don't know if either one means more to me or not, but to win another World Golf Championship -- as I said yesterday again, we have the majors and then the TPC at Sawgrass after that, and after those five tournaments I think the majority of the guys would pick World Golf Championships.

Q. The check is $50,000 more for this one?

DARREN CLARKE: Is this $50,000? That won't last very long. I think I'll be running through most of that tonight, at least I'll make a good effort at it. I won't be trying very hard, either (laughter).

Q. Could you explain where the idea for the arm brace came from and the effect it has on your swing?

DARREN CLARKE: Butch brought it over to me at the Open at St. George's and it was basically -- I don't know what you call it, but it's an arm brace that stops my right arm collapsing at the top, which in turn makes my swing a little bit shorter and a little bit wider, so I've got my width in my swing and it's allegedly a little bit more consistent, but it's been working very well since I started using it.

Q. When you holed in on 13, how confident at that point was your tournament?

DARREN CLARKE: There was still a lot of golf. The game is very easy get ahead of yourself, but I've got enough experience now where I've been up there in a few majors and whatnot to know there's still a lot of golf to be played, so I didn't get ahead of myself at all. I knew I still had a lot of good golf shots to be hit and I planned to do that.

Q. How much of a relief is it after the season you've had?

DARREN CLARKE: I don't know if it's a relief or not, but it's certainly -- I feel very good at the moment about the position -- about what I've achieved because I've had a season where, as you know, I've been putting a lot of work in and getting very good results. It's been monotonous and tedious telling you every week that I'm playing okay and not scoring okay. But to actually win a tournament as important as this one, it certainly makes me feel pretty good after all the work I've done.

Q. What was your mindset coming out of missing the cut last week?

DARREN CLARKE: Last week I shot 79 in the first round, but I didn't actually play a 79 bad. I hit 12 fairways and shot 79. You can't really do that there. I just short-sided myself too often and made a couple of silly mistakes. My short game wasn't sharp. You know, coming to here, to Firestone, where I've played well before, I was really looking forward to it, and I came here, flew in Saturday, couldn't wait to get practicing and working on Saturday, but we had thunder storms and stuff so I didn't do anything.

So Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday I prepared as well as I could. I played nine holes each day and spent probably those nine holes took me three hours each time to play nine holes because as opposed to just playing 18 and getting around as fast as I could I chipped and putted around each green. I knew where the flags were going to be because I've been here before. It's the best I've ever prepared for a tournament. Sometimes good things come out of bad things. I was disappointed missing the cut last week but I was looking forward to coming here this week.

Q. You talked at the beginning of the year with Bob Rotella. How much of this success was -- you may go wild later on tonight.


Q. You. At least we hope you will.

DARREN CLARKE: I won't tell you all about it anyway.

Q. How much of this success was due to the grace or control you have over your temperament and mind and so on?

DARREN CLARKE: I think today I was very calm. I felt very comfortable. As I say, I'm 35 and experienced enough to know what I should be doing and what I shouldn't be doing. I had a day where I was very comfortable, knew exactly what I was trying to do, and things went my way. It's great to see progress not only in my swing, my short game, but from the mental side it's great to see everything culminate and end up with a win again.

Q. Can this do anything for the European Tour, even just confidence as far as you guys haven't won very many majors?

DARREN CLARKE: We do have a bunch of very talented young players now in Europe coming through again. We can play a bit over there in Ireland, as well. It's just great for another European to win one again.

Personally, obviously, I'm pleased that it's myself, but we do have a lot of good players coming through there. Hopefully it will show them that they can carry on and come over here and win because they're good enough to do it.

Q. With this win I think you're the 20th different person to win on the Tour this year. How good is that for the game of golf?

DARREN CLARKE: It's great because it means there's so much more depth, as opposed to just Tiger winning every week. Everybody loves to see Tiger win the way he plays. He's the best player in the world. But there's a lot of other guys that can come out here and play, as well, and sometimes when it's your week, it's your week, and that's what happens. That's why you've got 20 different winners this year on the Tour. Guys can play. The saying "these guys are good," there's a lot of them that are.

Q. With the DQ in your first event of the year in San Diego, you were desperately disappointed. What does this mean for Darren Clarke and the possible U.S. Tour possible membership this year?

DARREN CLARKE: I'm really taking a look at my membership after TPC at Sawgrass and I had enough money to get my card next year and I've already committed to becoming a member over here next year. This doesn't make any difference because I was already going to take my card up. I'm going to play both tours this year, probably play 16, 17 tournaments over here and probably similar in Europe. As long as you're top 50 in the world it's easy to do that. It's something that I can do and I'm in a position to do that.

Q. You talked about your putting. Bobby Clampett mentioned you were at the top or close to the top. It's amazing, but talk about -- have you made drastic improvements in your technique or is it just a matter of practicing more? Has that suit at the Taylor Made fitting place that you've been using been a factor?

DARREN CLARKE: A little bit of everything really. I've tried to become a lot more stationery over the ball and not move as much, work on a few different things on the mental side, and on the physical side, as well, but that's why some weeks you look down the greens and you see it's outside right and you manage to start it off outside right and you manage to find the middle of the hole. Some weeks it does, some weeks it doesn't. To finish No. 1 in putting is a major achievement for me.

Q. Well done, Darren.

DARREN CLARKE: Thank you. How did Monte do?

Q. I might not write about Monte tomorrow, but I'll see now (laughter). How long did you spend, if any time at all, with Butch last week?

DARREN CLARKE: When did I get there? Did I play the week before? No, I didn't play. I got there early-ish, as well. I saw Butch on Monday last week, and we did about an hour, hour and a half's work. He said to me after that, he said you're swinging fine. I'm going to watch you from afar, if I see anything wrong I'll come over and tell you, but just swinging the way you are and you're fine. Keep using the arm brace and you're fine. He said we did a little bit too much at the Open at St. George's so this week I'm just going to let you go, and that's what he did. He thought I was swinging well enough last week so just continued doing what he's been telling me to do.

Q. Without disclosing too many details, do you plan on staying in the Akron area tonight or how are you going to celebrate this victory?

DARREN CLARKE: I'm not quite sure.

Q. Are you going to stay here, though?

DARREN CLARKE: No, there's a plane sitting at McKinley Aviation. I have yet to decide where it's going to take me to. Opportunities are wide open.

Q. You're in Boston next week, Darren?

DARREN CLARKE: Yes, I'm going to Boston, but I won't go tonight.

Q. I'm sure that the rest of the field felt some bit of pressure today to try and catch you knowing that you were playing well. I'm wondering, did you feel any pressure knowing that there was a great group of players right behind you with a chance?

DARREN CLARKE: Not particularly. As I said yesterday when I was in here, if I win tomorrow it'll be great, if I don't it's not going to make a bit of difference to me whatsoever. That was the attitude that I had, and I went out with that and I just went out and played, and things went my way.

I didn't feel any pressure from anybody coming from behind at all. I can still play a little bit myself. I'm 17th in the world and I haven't got there for no reason. I should be able to deal with a few things.

Q. With a $1 million prize, do you have any Ferraris picked out or anything like that?

DARREN CLARKE: The wife has probably got half of it spent already. I don't know, we'll see. I haven't thought about that yet. More immediate thoughts are tonight where the plane is going to take us.

Q. The last two putts on Friday evening, the last few greens, do they in your mind assume the importance that they had?

DARREN CLARKE: They were huge. To manage to hole them in the last couple of holes to keep me in it on a day when I wasn't quite firing on all cylinders. I knocked them in both of them without touching the sides of the hole, and that was a great boost for me going into the weekend. To drift further away from the lead would have made a big difference.

Q. You said you didn't look at a leaderboard until 13. Did you get any chance that Tiger was getting closer just based on the noise from ahead?

DARREN CLARKE: There was a couple of roars, but thankfully there wasn't that many so I knew he wasn't making eagles and everything and doing what he usually does. I could hear that he was making a few birdies, or somebody was, but I don't have any time to start worrying about what anybody else is doing. I've got enough to be getting on with my own game.

Q. Secondly, the pace seemed kind of slow. Does that ever bother you?

DARREN CLARKE: It was slow-ish, but I was in my own world out there. I was wandering along and hitting my shots and it didn't bother me. Usually it does, but this time I was very much at ease so it didn't bother me at all.

Q. Must have been the three-hour nine-hole practice rounds.

DARREN CLARKE: Exactly. Bernhard Langer does it all the time.

Q. Your approach shot at 16 obviously you could throw away a few shots there. Looked like you hit your shot before the people really cleared the green area.

DARREN CLARKE: I wasn't aware of them at all. As soon as I saw Stevie go off the right edge of the green, I thought that was it. I didn't know it was near the right end. I pushed it five yards to go even near that line of the flag. I was looking at the NEC sign right in the middle of the back stands and I knew exactly what I was trying to go far. I had enough time to stand on the fairway and look at it to know what my target was. I didn't notice it going off to the right.

Q. There was a lot of criticisms over 16 today. I think Hal Sutton said it was practically unplayable.

DARREN CLARKE: If it was a par 6 hole we could have. It was so difficult to actually keep it on the green going in there with a lob wedge putting as much spin on it as you could, but it was different to have a par 5 that was playing over par. Usually we're having a go at everything. At the start of the week I thought it's a tougher hole from the back, but I think it's a better hole from the front. That's my opinion on the hole.

Q. Tiger said the better you play the faster you walk. How was your walk up the 18th hole? Did you slow it down?

DARREN CLARKE: I was slow all day. I was really slow all day today. I don't know how I managed to do it, but I was. I was just wandering around, and as I said, I was just hitting it and finding it and hitting it again. I wish I could do it more often.

Q. Do you have a favorite brand of cigar?

DARREN CLARKE: All totally legal ones over here.

Q. Did you smoke much today at all?

DARREN CLARKE: No, I didn't smoke much today. I'll make up for it.

Q. When did you stop smoking? You always used to have a cigar in your mouth when you used to play?

DARREN CLARKE: I left my cigar holder at home so I've got nowhere to carry them around without breaking them up.

Q. What about cigarettes?

DARREN CLARKE: Well, there was one or two of those, but I much prefer to have my cigars.

Q. So you left your cigar --

DARREN CLARKE: I left my holders at home, sorry. I'll try and remember to bring them next time.

Q. Since we're on brands, what's your pint of choice?

DARREN CLARKE: Need to ask? Guinness, of course.

Q. Food? While we're on the subject.

DARREN CLARKE: I don't think there will be any time for food.

SCOTT CROCKETT: We're all done. Darren, many, many congratulations.

End of FastScripts....

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