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February 19, 2002

Darren Clarke


SCOTT CROCKETT: Welcome back to La Costa.


SCOTT CROCKETT: Some happy memories from last time are you pleased to be back.

DARREN CLARKE: I've played well in the past and certainly here, the last time I played very well.

SCOTT CROCKETT: Tell us how you feel about your game.

DARREN CLARKE: My game's not too bad. Missed the cut in L.A. last week, but I drove the ball very poorly and putted very poorly, only missed about two or three or whatever. But my overall game is pretty good. I've just got to knock a few putts in and get going.

Q. What particular memories do you have of that final, Darren?

DARREN CLARKE: Just walking around without a care in the world. Walked around, smoking a cigar and having a nice time on the golf course and that was it. It wasn't as if I was trying -- I was trying, but didn't feel as if I was trying.

Q. Game was easy?

DARREN CLARKE: Wish it was that easy all the time.

Q. Was it a conscious effort, and therefore, it's more difficult to create that?

DARREN CLARKE: Just happened that week that I was very relaxed and very comfortable with what I was doing.

Q. To those of us on this side of the pond, you always seem that way.

DARREN CLARKE: These guys know better. (Laughter.) You won't see me walking off after a 76 or something.

Q. The way you played, striking and all that, I think we had a statistic that you were inside Duval and Woods, do you remember the second shot?

DARREN CLARKE: That was made easier because the guys were hitting it further than I was, so it was always me hitting first so it was never really that much pressure on me hitting shots into the green. That's one of the things, if you can get in really close and put pressure on them, and because I was swinging particularly well that week, I was able to do that. I missed very few greens that whole week.

Q. After what you achieved that week, it seemed logical for you to go on and win a major, for it to kick on, is there any sense of disappointment?

DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, a little bit. I've had certainly an opportunity at the Open last year when I played really well all week. But everything has not really clicked together on that many occasions since then.

So, would I have liked to have better results since then? Yes, I probably would have done, but some people are slower at learning than others. (Smiles).

Q. What do you need to learn, what's missing?

DARREN CLARKE: This game, you're continually learning, learning about my swing and what shots I should take on at the right time. Making the right decisions is the hardest part.

I would not say that I'm very good at that most of the time.

Q. Are you getting better?

DARREN CLARKE: A little bit. Sort of middle of the greens don't really appeal to me. (Smiles).

Q. Do you think that negative is more a positive in the match-play format?

DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, probably. I enjoy match play. I always have done. Totally different game, and though I enjoy trying to play aggressively, that does help in match play. You've got more chance of making more birdies that way, I think. I could be wrong, but that's the way I think.

Q. Did you play a match with Ollie yesterday?

DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, I had to let him win just to get his confidence up a bit.

Q. How is his game?

DARREN CLARKE: Driving the ball fantastic. He missed one fairway yesterday. And drove it long and straight. If he keeps it in the fairway, he's going to have a great chance because his short game is so good.

Q. Best you've ever seen him drive?

DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, by a long way.

Q. Length, how does he compare to you?

DARREN CLARKE: He was passed me probably more often than I passed him.

Q. Do you think it's a shame that he won't be at The Belfry?

DARREN CLARKE: Everybody had the same opportunity to qualify during the qualifying period. Because he's playing as well as he is now, doesn't necessarily mean that he should be on the team. We've all this had the opportunities, and because of what happened on September last year -- you can't say just because he's won two out of his four out of his last five tournaments he should be on the team.

It's unfortunate. I would certainly like to see him on the team with his current form, but that's not the -- the qualifying system is there for a reason and that's what happened. Unfortunately, he's not going to be there.

Q. Did you hear of the suggestion of possibly expanding the team?

DARREN CLARKE: You can't do that. That's not what the Ryder Cup is all about.

Q. Because?

DARREN CLARKE: Because it's -- the rules are down there and the format is down there. We had to put it back a year, but we still have to play it the way they have been playing for a long, long time.

Q. Talking about taking on the right shots at the right time, have you talked to somebody like Tiger about that?

DARREN CLARKE: He wouldn't tell me.

No, I haven't. I don't know, probably -- I find it difficult to make the right decisions all the time. You know, there is certain times, whenever it is, I definitely forget about the flag, don't take it on, and yet Billy says, "forget about it."

And I've got an iron in my hands and I go, "no, I won't screw with that."

Q. With your ability, isn't it hard not to --?

DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, that's the way I feel. That's why sometimes I can shoot low scores whenever I do get that way.

Q. Has there been one shot that illustrates that, one that you can think of?

DARREN CLARKE: Possibly 17 at Lytham last year, when I took driver off the tee. I took the shot I wanted to hit, but in hindsight, I would not hit anything different, but 3-wood might have been a better play. I felt I had to get it up there as far as I could to try to make birdie because I was a few shots behind David at that stage, so I had to try and push.

Q. Billy wanted you to hit 3-wood?

DARREN CLARKE: He was quite happy to let me have what I wanted. But even if I made 3, I still probably would not have won, anyway. But I felt I hit at that time what I thought was the right one.

Q. I'm curious, a little latitude on this question, in general, would you say that European players are a little bit more happy-go-lucky than their American counterparts? There is still pressure obviously, but is the attitude perhaps a little different?

DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, I think because most of the places in Europe we're more of a closer group, because we invariably stay in the same two or three hotels every week, so we all get to know each other probably a little bit better than what the guys over here do because all the guys stay in different places all the time. They really don't seem to socialize that much together. Whereas in Europe, it's a much more friendly traveling group.

So, yeah, it's probably a little bit more relaxed than what it would be over here.

Q. Still cut-throat, though?

DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, of course it is. Guys want to win. In general, they get along.

Q. What does your American schedule look like; after THE PLAYERS, will you stay?

DARREN CLARKE: I'm back over again for THE PLAYERS, and then Houston and then a week off and then Augusta.

Q. The exemption, they have okayed that?

DARREN CLARKE: For Houston, yes.

Q. Will you practice in Florida the week before the Masters?

DARREN CLARKE: I'm not sure. Depends how I'm playing. I may go home, or I may not. If I'm playing okay, I'll probably stay. If not I'll probably go back to TPC, or I may go to play Seminole for a few days, so I might take that.

I'm skipping Bay Hill because I'm fed up shooting 160 after two rounds.

Q. Have you played Seminole before?

DARREN CLARKE: No, I haven't.

Q. It's quite nice.

DARREN CLARKE: I believe so.

Q. I know the words, "Work out" don't actually sit very well with you --?

DARREN CLARKE: You've got to get the flu or something; get a tummy bug, and that's the easiest way.

Q. Have you been doing anything during the winter?

DARREN CLARKE: I've just been sick a little bit. (Laughter.)

Q. I mean, what is your fighting weight now?

DARREN CLARKE: Oh, I don't know. I don't know. It varies. I've been doing a little bit of stretching with John, the guy I was working with last year, but I haven't been doing an awful lot.

Q. Stretching?

DARREN CLARKE: He wanted me to stretch.

Q. Gogel, have you played with him before?

DARREN CLARKE: No, I haven't.

Q. Any reason in particular the top players will do better this week than they have at this tournament before?

DARREN CLARKE: As I said the last time, match play, you know match play, anybody can beat anybody on a day. Certainly over 18 holes, that's more highlighted than 36.

But, you know, all of the guys that are here this week can play. So I'm sure there will be a lot of surprises like there was the last time.

SCOTT CROCKETT: All the best this week.

End of FastScripts....

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