August 23, 2000
GORDON SIMPSON: You've already won one of the World Golf Championships, the first European to do so. Could you maybe tell us how that helped your self-confidence and self-belief winning at La Costa.
DARREN CLARKE: Obviously, to beat Tiger and David and all the other guys that I managed to beat out that week was certainly a huge boost for me and gave me a lot of confidence to go forward and know that I can compete with the best and I can beat the best if I'm playing well enough.
GORDON SIMPSON: And I presume you've gone through that million dollars and you must pick up another million this week.
DARREN CLARKE: That was spent a long time ago, that one. (Laughs.)
GORDON SIMPSON: How does this course suit your game?
DARREN CLARKE: I think the course is fantastic. Another old, traditional golf course that's always gotten the better of me in the past. Hopefully this week I can change that a little bit. I haven't played it when the course has been running and hard like this. Before, the times I have played it, it has been soft and it's been a lot longer shots into the green, and I thought maybe the rain will soften it up again this morning. But the course is very demanding, especially off the tee, and you must get it in play. Indeed, yesterday when it was fast, there were a lot of different lengths than what I would have been used to. I'm going to have to go out again today and play more holes and see the way the course is playing.
Q. Your finish at the U.S. PGA, you finished in the Top 10, how do you view that? Do you view it as a success?
DARREN CLARKE: It was certainly good to finish Top-10, considering how I was playing. I didn't drive the ball well, and I didn't hit my irons well, and I didn't putt well. So overall, I didn't actually play the way I wanted to play last week. But if I can do that with not playing anywhere near my ability, then that will be an improvement, and that's what I'm trying to do.
Q. How many times have you played here?
DARREN CLARKE: I think this is the third or fourth time here. I'm not sure. I know the course has won every time I've been here.
GORDON SIMPSON: Is this one of the toughest par 70s that you play?
DARREN CLARKE: Definitely. I think the way it is set up, it goes through -- requires every club in the bag, requires every shot in the bag, this golf course. If you do miss some shots, you pay the penalty for it. And you know going on to every tee that you must hit the fairways; otherwise, you are looking at making bogeys. The rough, being as severe as it is, you can only advance it a certain distance and then go from there. Very much like a U.S. Open type course.
Q. Monty and Thomas Bjorn both said yesterday they were concerned about more players going to play in America. And the fact that three or four of them are not here this week, do you think it is a concern with Olly and Jimenez both?
DARREN CLARKE: With regards to the Ryder Cup next year? I think people are going to play where they want to play. And I think Jose Maria and Miguel, if they want to base themselves over here and play, you can't fault them for that. Some people don't really want to go and fly down to Australia or fly down to South Africa and do all that traveling and then come over here and play on the West Coast and get their cards to qualify. For some next year that may well be a key, but I think the players are that good, that they will accumulate enough money in the tournaments they play to make the team, anyway. I think it won't be as detrimental as what may first appear.
Q. The problem is that it might be --
DARREN CLARKE: There's a possibility, yes. But as I say, I think there are enough players where they are going to -- it will certainly -- I would imagine they would have obviously a much better chance to stay in Europe and play. I know people want to advance their careers and do whatever they think is best. You can't really fault them.
Q. Monty and Thomas, they both express their fears, if you like, that there is only two picks. And you know, you're going to get virtually half of last year's team playing over here this year. So with only two -- and they maybe said that perhaps we should look at it again before qualifying starts.
DARREN CLARKE: I would agree. I would always be for nine places and three wildcards. That's what they talked about the last time. And certainly I would favor that, because that would give them the option, give Sam or whomever the option of one more pick. But again, as I've just said, I think the guys are good enough that hopefully the situation will not arise. It could do, but hopefully it won't.
Q. Would you be against him having any more than three wildcard picks?
DARREN CLARKE: Yes. Nine and three I think would be -- would be a perfect scenario for us, because of what the guys are just saying. There's more and more of our players now taking advantage of their exemption on the PGA TOUR and playing a lot more over here.
Q. Why not give the captain the right to captain, as it were, and make it six and six?
DARREN CLARKE: I can see where you're coming from, but I think you've got to draw the line. You've got to have a qualification where people are playing at home, playing in Europe, and they play well all season. I think they should be able to qualify, and I think nine and three, in my opinion, would be the proper number. I think six and six would be a little bit too much. I think nine and three is -- we give them that one extra option, and you've got the top nine qualifyings.
Q. Six and six would favor too much the players who play in the big-money events?
DARREN CLARKE: I think six and six is just too much, because we certainly want to get the guys who are going to make the Ryder Cup team -- we would like to see them playing in Europe, would like to be competing against each other in Europe. I think that's very healthy. I think whenever -- six and six wouldn't mean that guys can play wherever they want; whereas, nine and three, I still think you are going to have your best team of nine and three.
Q. What about two of the Top 20 players in the world not being here this week?
DARREN CLARKE: That was disappointing. There's a lot of talk about that at the time when the rules were changed. But the rules were changed to -- obviously, Mr. Schofield's and whomever's opinion to enhance the players in Europe and give them an opportunity to play, which I don't have a problem with. I think that's great. Everybody has qualified from our Order of Merit to play, but the fact you just said, there's two in the Top-20 in the world that are not here. I don't think that's quite right.
Q. With the major over, is the Order of Merit a priority?
DARREN CLARKE: I think so. I'd like to turn it around at the end of the year -- Lee and Monty as well, give them a good run for their money. There's a long way to go. If I would win that, that would be fantastic.
Q. Is playing here an option for you, too, Darren, playing more in America? Playing more in America?
DARREN CLARKE: No. I think my schedule is fairly well-balanced. I think I am very fortunate that the tournaments over here, Top 50 in the world, there is more exemptions for that. And any time I do get an invite -- the PGA TOUR have been very, very good to me and offered it to me in the past. And it's good that I can play -- play eight or nine times over here during the season, play the top tournaments in Europe I play, and four or five times elsewhere around the world. I enjoy traveling. I enjoy traveling around the world. That's the way I want to do it. My family is based at home. I have no reason to come over here and play any more.
Q. Are you definitely defending in Australia?
DARREN CLARKE: Yes. Definitely.
Q. Are you curious to see how Tiger reacts after the dramatic finish on Sunday?
DARREN CLARKE: What did he do? I didn't see it. (Laughs). I think he just went home and relaxed all day yesterday, as far as I'm aware. But he was pretty well used to it, isn't he? I think he knows what he's doing.
Q. You're the guy who beat Tiger. What does it take to beat Tiger Woods?
DARREN CLARKE: A lot of luck.
Q. And some skill?
DARREN CLARKE: As I've said before, Tiger is a fantastic player. There's nobody else like him out here at the moment. But he doesn't win every tournament every week. He just wins an awful lot more than everybody else does. And so he's not infallible. He can be beaten. Fortunately I got him on a day where he was not at the top of his game and I was at the top of mine.
Q. If you're going to end up playing Tiger, what's your mindset going in?
DARREN CLARKE: I think you've got to go out and play your best. And if your best is good enough, you win; and if not, you won't.
Q. So in many ways it's less pressure on you?
DARREN CLARKE: I thoroughly enjoyed playing him, you know. I get on well with him, and we have -- we chat a bit and we have a laugh, you know. It was just like any other game.
Q. Is there ever a time as a player that you get caught up in watching some of the things that he can do?
DARREN CLARKE: No. No. He plays his game. I play my game. Take it from there.
Q. Do you know, Darren, that Tiger is playing a ball especially made for him that is not available to the public?
DARREN CLARKE: Is he? I didn't know. I don't know which ball he's playing. I know which one, but I didn't realize it was not available to anybody else.
Q. Nike made a special ball just for Tiger.
DARREN CLARKE: Well, it's obviously working for him. So I don't think he is going to complain too much.
Q. In terms of principle, that's probably not right?
DARREN CLARKE: I'm sure, like most manufacturers, we get the opportunity to test prototypes. We get clubs and things to try before it is made available to the public. So I'm sure this is just another step along that line. The ball -- I would presume is not even tested -- passed that sort of stuff, by whomever. And if he's testing the ball and getting good results with it, I would not imagine that it will be too long before it is made available to the public.
Q. Here in the States, people who follow the Tour, focus on the "Big Three", yourself, Lee and Colin, but Thomas Bjorn has played some beautiful golf, especially in the major championships. You have won here; Lee has won here. Do you feel that Thomas' game is such that he could breakthrough and win here in the States?
DARREN CLARKE: I think so. Thomas has made huge improvements recently. He started working with Peter Cowen a couple of months ago. And since then, he has gotten a lot better and has a lot more confidence. If you take a look at his performance the last two majors, and Pebble Beach where he was up there as well going into the third round, I think that is a great -- especially for the European Tour, that we have somebody of Thomas' ability -- no doubt he is getting better and better.
DARREN CLARKE: We play a lot of golf with each other and what-have-you, and I try and take his money as often as I can. But he's certainly playing very well.
DARREN CLARKE: Got on the phone the next week and said "How is Denmark's No. 2 girl?" Didn't get away with that for long. I got the mic off the starter at Pebble Beach. I said, "This is the Danish No. 2, Thomas Bjorn." He didn't like that too much. He got much better at dealing with the amount of abuse we give him than he was before.
Q. Specifically, though, what does he do so well? What are the aspects of his game that enable him to play so well?
DARREN CLARKE: I think Thomas's game all around is very solid. Drives the ball well, hits his irons well, and he's certainly putting very well at the moment. But he's just an all-around very solid player.
Q. How long can you see Tiger continuing this run in major championships?
DARREN CLARKE: As long as he wants to, really. As I've just said, he's not going to win every one all the time. You know, he's obviously come very close to winning the Grand Slam in one season. You know, if he'd have picked any major to win, he'd probably picked Augusta as the one he's going to win before all the rest of them because of his length. I think as well as playing well, you need that little bit of luck to go with him. And sometimes that doesn't happen all the time, no matter how good you are. That's why Tiger probably doesn't win every time he doesn't go out to play. But in regards to winning majors, I think he's going to be up there for a long, long time, as long as he wants to be.
Q. Is one of his signs of greatness from your perspective an ability to peak for major championships? How hard is that?
DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, I think that's a very big part of it. People said before that he can peak at certain times, from my point of view, everybody tends to play better, but to actually play as well as he's played in all of the majors, it's remarkable. He can practice and do all that sort of stuff, but still at the end of the day, you still have to put your scores on your scorecard and do. And he's been able to do that, and very few people in the history of the game that can do that.
Q. There's this theory that everybody else needs to work harder to catch up. What's your take on that? Is that just easy to say and hard to do?
DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, everybody has got different talent. Some people can work all day long and might not improve that much. Others can work just a little and see great improvements. Different ways of looking at it. But I think Tiger is definitely the reason the game has -- risen the game to a new level. I think everybody is trying to do what he does. Albeit some of us, a bit more unsuccessfully than others. We're trying to get better, trying to do the right things, and you don't see people winning majors by 8 shots, 12 shots, whatever he is doing. So that's giving a lot more guys a lot more determination, a lot more desire to try and close that gap. Whether that happens, we'll have to wait and see.
Q. At The Match Play, you were kind of laughing that you were going the opposite way, has anything changed in the last -- since then?
DARREN CLARKE: No. I've had a few head-offs now and again when I have not played as well, that's just the way I am most of the time. I go out and play, and if I play well, I play well; and if not, there's not much I can do about it. But certainly, that day, I was very relaxed very comfortable, indeed, all that week. And I just took things as they come. And whenever I play well, my good is usually very good and that week they happened to be very good.
Q. You don't have a personal trainer or anything?
DARREN CLARKE: No, no, no. (Laughs). Oh, no. Perish the thought.
Q. Should Tiger win at Augusta in April, would you consider that him having won the Grand Slam?
DARREN CLARKE: No. Because the record would show it in one season. It would be, again another fantastic achievement, but it's not consecutive, it's not in one year.
Q. Darren, with the next major being Augusta, there's the longest time between now and then, between the majors. Obviously there's going to be a big build-up before Augusta as to whether or not can he win there, but can he win the Slam in 2001? If he wins the slam in 2001, not only would that be pretty amazing, but it will also be seven consecutive major championships. Is that doable?
DARREN CLARKE: I think when you talk about Tiger, nothing would surprise me. He is certainly going to be in contention, I would imagine. Whether or not he manages to win them is another thing. But nothing would surprise me, anything that he does.
Q. I saw Monty yesterday and I almost didn't recognize him. He's just so thin now. Do you guys tease him now?
DARREN CLARKE: No. Monty does these things now and again. He takes notions and again and loses weight and puts it back on, loses weight, puts it back on. But he's certainly looking very slim at the moment. And I think he's having headaches and stuff, hasn't he? So sometimes it's good. Sometimes it suits some people and sometimes it doesn't. But he's certainly trying to make the most out of his health, and you can't really fault him for that. Just a little bit different perspective than I have on things.
Q. Going back to an earlier point, I don't know if tempt is the right word, but being more inclined to play here, just curious about European Tour players' point of view, do you feel that the only way to make that situation better would be to drive more and more money into the European Tour, or are the events there -- is the perception that they are capped out financially?
DARREN CLARKE: No, I don't think so. I think the European Tour is getting better and better. Our venues are getting better. We're playing for more prize money. The quality of our -- whatever you said, our players, is a lot better than it has been for some time. It just so happens that some people don't fancy them -- at the start of the year to get to places like Australia, to South Africa, to Malaysia, and Asia and stuff. So, therefore, it's much easier to come over here and play the PGA TOUR where you have the whole West Coast Swing; you're in one country. And so it makes a lot more sense, but I think all of those guys you're talking about, they are over here playing for the first part of the season, and then playing the European Tour when it is more centralized and then it is much easier. But as to the Tour being capped out with money, I don't -- I think it is getting better and getting stronger.
Q. Watching Bob May, who spent a couple years playing there, he talked about a source of pride --
DARREN CLARKE: Certainly Bob has played the European Tour for a couple of years, and a lot of people didn't know an awful lot about him, but he's played well in Europe before. He's won the British Masters; beaten Monty down the stretch, and that's not the easiest thing to do. And he's a quality player, and I wasn't surprised in the slightest that he was there on Sunday afternoon. He shot 31 on the back nine, as well on Sunday, and didn't win. To shoot 31 on the back nine against Tiger, you know, is a feat in itself. You've got to be a quality player to do that, and he did it.
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