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August 15, 2001

Darren Clarke


JULIUS MASON: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Wednesday at the 83rd PGA Championship. Starting this morning, we have Darren Clarke joining us. He is playing in his fourth PGA Championship. Welcome to the Atlanta Athletic Club.


JULIUS MASON: If you would not mind giving us some opening comments and we'll go to Q&A please.

DARREN CLARKE: The course is difficult but very fair. I think the setup is great. There's some very demanding holes out there, but there's obviously, as I'm sure everybody else has said, a huge premium on driving the ball straight. If you start missing the fairways on the par 4's, it's going to be a real tough week. I'm basically just looking forward to getting going, getting started.

JULIUS MASON: Thank you. Questions, folks?

Q. You took a week off, first week in 12, and went to Portugal?

DARREN CLARKE: Went to Portugal for four days. Had a great time. Very nice. And then went to Baltimore on Friday at a place called Caves Valley, and then spent Sunday and Monday at the best course in the world, Pine Valley, which was fantastic and then down here yesterday morning.

Q. Is this your type of course?

DARREN CLARKE: I think so, if I drive the ball as I have been of late. I should give myself a good chance this week. The course is long, so therefore, you need to get it out a little bit off the tees. If you don't, you'll be going into some of these par 4s with woods and what have you, which is going to be very, very tough. But I like the course. The course, there's nothing hidden to it. Everything is in front of you. I played nine holes yesterday afternoon. I've played nine holes this morning, and I think that's all -- that's all I'm going to do. I'm going to go and hit some balls and chip and putt for a while. There has not been too many major venues I've come to before where I've felt that one practice round is enough.

Q. People talk about Colin Montgomerie and Phil Mickelson's names about two players who have not won a major, a monkey on their backs, so to speak. Do you feel you are at the stage where it is overdue for you to win a major championship?

DARREN CLARKE: I don't know, I would not say I'm overdue to win a major championship, but I think the majority of the times the people who keep getting themselves in contention for majors, they do win one. Certainly, it was great to see David Duval win one because he's been up there knocking on the door for such a long time. I've got to keep on getting myself in positions like I did at Lytham. And if I could do that, hopefully I will, but it's just a gradual thing, trying to improve and trying to keep on giving myself those chances.

Q. Darren, what's the hardest things for Europeans who are playing in their first major in America?

DARREN CLARKE: The course setup. We don't play courses setup as difficult as this that often, so for the guys from home to come over and play, it's different than anything we play at home. I think that's the most -- that's the biggest difference. You know, the rough around the greens is as severe as it is. And certainly this week, with some of the grass around the greens, you can walk up and you don't know where your ball is. Trying to play a shot out of that and actually knowing what you are trying to do can be very difficult.

Q. How long did it take to you get used to that?

DARREN CLARKE: Quite some time. The first, I don't know, three, four years that I was coming over here, I found it very difficult. As players, you try to improve and you try to pick up on different shots and different shots for different situations. We've played out of this type of grass before, so I know what to expect, especially around the greens. It doesn't mean I'm any good at it, but I know what to expect. So, you know, when you come over from Europe, and we don't play on this type of grass, it's very difficult to know how to execute some shots.

Q. Can you give us an idea of how Pine Valley compares to this course from what you saw in your practice rounds? Pine Valley is supposed to be very difficult.

DARREN CLARKE: Very. Very, very, very difficult.

Q. So is this easier?

DARREN CLARKE: Yes, this is easier than Pine Valley. Pine Valley is just a very special place. The golf course is -- there's not that much rough around it. It doesn't need any rough. It's just a very, very tough, fair, golf course. Whereas here, this is also very tough and very fair, but this one, as I've said, you need to drive it on the fairway and keep it below the hole, if you can. Pine Valley's greens are a lot more undulating and what-have-you. But from the point of view of being a very difficult golf course, that's why we took the opportunity when it was offered to us to go and practice there before we came here.

Q. Have you seen Butch or are you planning to or is it another sign of how good you feel about your game; perhaps you don't need to see him?

DARREN CLARKE: I met him in the locker room yesterday and he gave me a birthday present and that was it. Claude, I spent a bit of time with him yesterday, walking around the course, but I feel very comfortable with where my game is at the moment. Again, because I've only played 18 holes of a practice round, I'm quite comfortable with what I'm doing.

Q. You mentioned the course is long. Do you think that this major, compared to the other three, takes the driver out of the bag more so this week?

DARREN CLARKE: You mean this week puts it in the bag?

Q. No. It takes the driver out of the bag. Meaning that you use the driver here more than any of the other three majors.

DARREN CLARKE: Of course. Definitely, I think that's great to see. To put accuracy back on the driver again, there's been all of this talk about technology and the ball going too far and they have to do something about it, this course addresses that. The par 4's are whatever, 450, 460, 470; you have to drive the ball straight and long this week. It's great to come and play a course like this where you don't have to hit 3-woods or 2-irons up short of certain hazards, so it is a refreshing change.

Q. Talk a little bit about the last four holes. People have talked that those could be the holes that decide this tournament. Why is that?

DARREN CLARKE: Well, they are long for a start. The par -3 15 is, obviously -- they are all great hopes out there, but that can be a very demanding tee shot, especially when they have got the pin back right. It could be very tough. Then 16, even though the fairway is quite generous, there is only about a third of it on the left-hand side that you need to be hitting it into if the flag is back right, otherwise you have no shot around the trees and it's going to be playing uphill, obviously a very tough second shot. 17 is a great par-3 hole. We're going to be playing 4-, 5-irons, and so any misses there at all, you're going to pay the penalty for it. And certainly, 18 is probably one of the toughest par 4s I've played in a long time. I hit a really good drive this morning and I had to hit 5-wood in there. I don't know how some guys are going to play it. I think you're going to see a lot of them having to lay up; forced to lay up, not their choice. But it's going to be a long carry if you don't get your tee shot out there. Just can't go for the green.

Q. Do you do anything different playing out of bermudarough than you would out of fescue or ryegrass or the other turf that you see?

DARREN CLARKE: Probably a little bit.

Q. Can you describe it?

DARREN CLARKE: Certainly off the fairways you have to try to pick the ball a little bit cleaner off those and around the greens, depending upon the lie, you've got to get much steeper on it and all that sort of stuff. I don't particularly think that much about it. If I start thinking, then I have no idea what I'm doing. (Laughter.)

Q. Darren, in your mind's eye, how do you see a par 4? Because for years and years, they have surely only been nothing more than a drive and sort of a 6- or 5-iron, but this is something new, isn't it?

DARREN CLARKE: It's certainly something very different. We don't play courses as long as this consistently long par 4s. There's a lot of -- some par 4s are fantastic. If they are 3-iron and low blades, it doesn't have to be 470 yards. But this week, we are playing long par 4s, and it's very good having to hit whatever, 3-, 4- , 5-irons into par 4s, as well. I don't particularly have a view on what they should be and shouldn't be as long as they are fair, and these holes are very fair. There's some courses we play where we've got little short par 4s with stupid greens and stupid holes and things and they are not fair, whereas this week, everything is.

Q. Darren, your game is was very good at Lytham. On a scale of 1 to 10, how out would you say it is now?

DARREN CLARKE: Probably at Lytham it was about 8 1/2, I would say. At the moment, I'm probably, I don't know, about 8, still there. The two weeks that I played after Lytham, I found myself very tired, very mentally tired. Probably in hindsight, it would have been a better idea to take a break one of those weeks, because playing as well as I was, I felt I should go and play, but I was making a lot of mental mistakes but hitting the ball equally as well. It was great to have a week off. I did a bit of practice when I was down in Portugal, as well, and so I hit some balls down there and I played over the weekend. It feels as good as it has done the last couple of months.

JULIUS MASON: Questions, questions twice.


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