April 3, 2001
JAMES BLANCHARD: Good morning. We are delighted to have Darren Clarke this morning here for the interview on the Tuesday practice round day. As you know, he has already won this year, Dimension Data Pro-Am and last year was the spectacular winner at the Andersen Consulting Match Play Championship where he defeated Tiger Woods in the finals and also defeated Paul Azinger, Mark O'Meara, Thomas Bjorn, Hal Sutton and David Duval along the way. He's got six European Tour titles to his credit and has played on two Ryder Cup teams. We are delighted to welcome you this morning, and I'd invite questions from the media.
Q. What is your take on they say that this course sets up well for a European type of game, where there is a lot more imagination around the greens?
DARREN CLARKE: There's definitely a lot more imagination on the greens here than what the rest of the courses -- the majority of the courses we play on the PGA TOUR, because of the lack of rough around the green, you can lob it up, bump it up, do whatever you want. Just get it up there somewhere. And that's what we do over there in Europe, where it's maybe not the flop shot around the greens. Maybe that's why Europeans have played so well here in the past.
Q. Have you spoken with Lee Westwood at all this week?
DARREN CLARKE: No, I haven't. He's having a busy time at home, I think. So, I haven't spoken to them.
Q. How familiar do you think you are with this course?
DARREN CLARKE: I don't think you can ever be that familiar with this golf course. There's always things that you learn every time you play the golf course, and there's always spots that are from a slightly different angle, break the other way and what have you. I think it is a case of the more you play around here, the more you can actually get to know the golf course a little bit more, a little bit better.
Q. Can you tell us how you prepared last week, and also when you got here and what have you done since you got here?
DARREN CLARKE: I can't handle all those at one time. (Smiles). Got here late Sunday afternoon. I start stayed at Jacksonville last week to practice. Worked a lot down there. Played a couple times last week with Padraig, Padraig Harrington last week. What was the third bit? I told you I couldn't remember.
Q. Did you work with Butch Harmon there last week?
DARREN CLARKE: No. I was just down there messing around the chipping area and putting green and stuff. Vijay was there, as well. Just practicing, that's all.
Q. How happy are you with the season so far? You've had a few good tournaments and a few not so good?
DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, I've been struggling with my game a little bit. As you say, I got off and played okay winning earlier in the year, was pretty good and then I've just struggled a bit. But I feel a lot better recently. I played reasonably well at TPC; not as good as I would have liked to, but reasonably well. Did a little bit of work with Butch there. Did a lot of work with Bob Rotella, trying to get my head sorted out which is no mean feat. Managed to clear it out a little bit.
Q. What did Bob Rotella tell you?
DARREN CLARKE: I can't tell you that.
Q. Do you remember?
DARREN CLARKE: No. (Laughs). Whenever things are not going that well, I tend to get very much into my technique and trying to figure out my swing and then forget what I'm actually supposed to do, trying to get the ball in the hole in as few strokes as possible and I'm trying to hit every shot perfect, and that doesn't work. So you manage to get it into the hole some way, which is the theory, anyway, that worked at TPC.
Q. Since you've been over here since Jacksonville, how long have you spent with Butch?
DARREN CLARKE: Not that long. A little bit at Jacksonville, during the week of the tournament, and he looked at my swing a bit. Last week I was on my own. I spent a little bit of time with him yesterday morning.
Q. So at Jacksonville half an hour?
DARREN CLARKE: During the course of the week, maybe a couple of hours, something like that.
Q. What did he say about your swing?
DARREN CLARKE: Just my whole followthrough, I was dropping the club behind me. Same sort of thing that I fall back into all the time.
Q. What are your expectations this week?
DARREN CLARKE: Pretty good. I'm hitting the ball solidly. This week is trying to keep the ball on the right side of the flag, is what I'd like to do this week. If I can, then hopefully I'll give myself an opportunity to better my best finish here.
Q. Is that your ambition? Are you aspiring to go the whole way?
DARREN CLARKE: I think my game is very solid and I'd like to see if I could give myself a chance come Sunday.
Q. Do you change anything different this week than what you have done in previous visits?
DARREN CLARKE: No. Just all the same.
Q. Lee has dropped out. Will you be phoning him today to have a chat with him?
DARREN CLARKE: As I say, I think he has got his hands full of things. I'm not going to phone him and bother him at this time. Certainly, if the baby does come along, I'll be giving him a call as soon as I can.
Q. Are you disappointed that Lee won't get a chance to play?
DARREN CLARKE: I think family is much more important than any golf tournament. There's a lot of majors to be played and this is his first child, and I think you've got to respect his decision to stay at home.
Q. What difference has fatherhood made to you?
DARREN CLARKE: I don't know what my wife would say to that. Sometimes I get, as everybody says, I get pretty hard on myself and it's pretty good to go back and see the kids and mess about, have a little fun with them. It just takes my mind off it a bit. Takes my mind off my golf.
DARREN CLARKE: Down in Jacksonville and last week when I was standing there practicing and then again this week.
Q. Does that relax you more?
DARREN CLARKE: When I go back from the golf course, everybody is there, I can have fun now when I go back. Especially Tyrone, now that he's two and a half, I can have fun with him, "Naughty, Daddy, playing golf all day." That stuff.
Q. Where were you when your children were born?
DARREN CLARKE: My first one was born the week before the U.S. PGA at Sahalee, and the baby, he came along in time but because it was our first, I decided to stay at home and spend some time at home.
Q. When you come over here this week and you are standing over 8-, 10-, 15-foot putts, do you have to have a different mindset than you do every other week?
DARREN CLARKE: I think so here, because of the speed of the greens and the amount of break. You know, you may have a 10-, 15-footer with 15-foot of break so you are standing with your back to the hole at times so it is pretty difficult to actually think about holing the putt where you can't see the putt where you are aiming. Sometimes you have to aim over here to hit the ball over there. We didn't play on greens like this that often. Sometimes a 2-putt from ten feet is a great 2-putt, which, again, is not something that we come across that often. So, you know, it's more of working on your speed this week than anything else.
Q. So you are thinking about your next putt already?
DARREN CLARKE: Almost. You are thinking about that when you are hitting your shots into the greens. You are not thinking about it over your shot, your pre-shot routine. You know the best place to hit it and that's what you are trying to do, to give yourself the easiest putt that you can.
Q. What was the long putt you holed, on 15, wasn't it?
DARREN CLARKE: I saw it the other day. I couldn't believe it went in. I thought it was going into the water. I don't know how far that was. Long.
Q. That was which round?
DARREN CLARKE: It was the third round. Eagle at 13 and eagle at 15 certainly helped.
Q. From off the green on the right and the flag was down?
DARREN CLARKE: Mm-hmm.
Q. It was a putt?
DARREN CLARKE: It was.
Q. Because we think it is the longest.
DARREN CLARKE: I don't know if it qualifies whenever it is on the green or not. It was off the green.
Q. But you used the putter?
DARREN CLARKE: I did.
Q. You admitted earlier that you get hard on yourself and get down on yourself. Have you been concentrating on changing your mental approach, and if a shot doesn't go the way you want it to that you can put it out of your mind more quickly?
DARREN CLARKE: Trying to, yes. Trying to not let it bother me as much, so to say.
Q. Are you succeeding?
DARREN CLARKE: At the moment. I'm slightly winning at the moment.
Q. How do you do this?
DARREN CLARKE: Well, if I knew that, I wouldn't lose my head all the time, would I? (Laughter.)
Q. Are you given drills to do?
DARREN CLARKE: No.
Q. Do you do little exercises?
DARREN CLARKE: No. I do not. No.
Q. Setting aside the world's top-ranked player, who comes in with a real head of steam, a chance, players to look for?
DARREN CLARKE: Obviously Vijay has been playing well recently and defending champion. His short game has been fantastic. Where is he in the putting stats over here? He's third? So you've got to look to somebody who is high on the putting stats over here, I think. I think David Duval, as well. His record in the past has been very good. I think he will be giving himself a very good chance. I think Nike price, as well. If Nike price plays well, as a supposed outsider, I think he'll give himself a chance.
Q. Much is being made about if Tiger gets the four consecutives is it a Grand Slam or is it not a Grand Slam and not in the same calendar year. In your opinion, for the sake of history, would you consider it a Grand Slam?
DARREN CLARKE: I think if he wins this week and holds all four, he can decide whatever he wants to decide. If he wants to decide it is a Grand Slam, he has every right to decide it is his. So leave it up to him.
Q. You've been close to the British Open. What would it mean to win one?
DARREN CLARKE: It's what we all aspire to. You know, the majors are the biggest tournaments in the world. And to win -- to win one would be fantastic. That's why we practice. That's why we work so hard. I'm sure if you were to -- if I was to win one, I would want to win again and again and again.
Q. At this point in your career, do you feel any urgency to get that first one under your belt?
DARREN CLARKE: No, I'm still working very hard on my game and I think my game is improving, a lot slower than I would like it to improve, but it is slowly getting better. So, I think when -- when did Price start winning majors? When did he win his first one? 34? Mark O'Meara has won two at 41, so, no, I'm not panicking just yet.
Q. What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given about playing this course?
DARREN CLARKE: Be patient. Not one of my virtues, really. (Smiles).
Q. Did you talk to Mr. Rotella about being patient?
DARREN CLARKE: Not yet. We're going to have a good session later. (Laughs). I'll see him later on, I think. But I haven't had a discussion with him yet, no.
Q. What are you doing to Bob Rotella?
DARREN CLARKE: Breaking him, I think. Probably.
Q. Obviously, Tiger is going to be a favorite here. What's your take on Tiger's capabilities here?
DARREN CLARKE: I think he's an unbelievable golfer, as I've said before in the past. With the length that he has off the tee, he can overpower any golf course. I think, however, with the rough here, even though it is not very deep, it still makes it a lot trick year. You can't really go at some greens or flags on this rough, trying to keep it on the greens coming out of the rough. I think he has a huge advantage as long as he keep it straight as he does most weeks.
Q. All I'm saying is he is that much better now than some of the other guys, like it appeared he was a couple years ago?
DARREN CLARKE: I think so. I think when he plays at his best, I don't think at the moment, currently, there is anybody that can challenge him, when he is in top form, but he's not always in top form.
Q. Your victory over him in the match play, does that wane in significance to you or get greater in time?
DARREN CLARKE: No, I still give him a little bit of stick and let him know. I still use it.
Q. Are you surprised about how quickly the talk of Tiger's slump ended?
DARREN CLARKE: Not particularly. To win tournaments, you need to (A) play well, and (B) have a little bit of luck, and he wasn't having either of those. So he got a couple of lucky bounces coming down the stretch at Bay Hill and all of the sudden he wins the tournament and he's all right as rain again. That's the nature of the game, you are going to win some and lose some. In his case he wins on a very regular basis and because he does it so well, when he doesn't, all of a sudden everyone jumps on his back and says "what's wrong." When he plays the way he can, he's going to start winning again, which he has done the last couple of tournaments.
Q. Have you been working on any specific shots that you need around here?
DARREN CLARKE: I think this golf course favors a draw, and so I'm trying to just work a little bit more on hitting a draw off the tee. That's the only thing I've been really doing.
JAMES BLANCHARD: The members of Augusta National are always delighted to have Darren here. We wish you luck in the tournament this week. As you know, he's the ninth-ranked player in the World Golf Rankings. A good chance for him to pull up on the list, and we'll be pulling for you.
DARREN CLARKE: Thank you.