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March 21, 2000

Darren Clarke


JOAN V.T. ALEXANDER: Ladies and gentlemen, we will begin with Darren Clarke. Darren, you have beaten the best two players in the world in head-to-head matches at the World Golf Championship, Andersen Consulting Match Play Championship. Are you looking forward to facing the toughest field in golf at this week's PLAYERS Championship.

DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, well, I think, 49 of the top 50 are here this week; that is a fantastic field and the more opportunity we get to play against all the best players in the world the better it is.

Q. Because I wasn't at La Costa, since you are the only person lately who has been able to beat Tiger Woods and you obviously played with him for an entire day, what did you see that nobody else saw or what were you able to do that nobody else is able to?

DARREN CLARKE: I don't know. That particular day I just played really well and kept on hitting greens and making a few birdies, what have you. I think Tiger's swing wasn't quite where he wanted it and I was fortunate enough to take advantage of that. I kept putting him under pressure. That wasn't a situation which he had been used to of late. It just worked out in my favor.

Q. Match Play situation sometimes tournaments on Sunday can develop into that. In essence, were you just concerned about doing what you could do against the course and not really worried about where Tiger was hitting?


Q. Do you think it is too easy to get caught up in me against Tiger?

DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, with Tiger's length he overpowers golf courses and if you pay attention to what Tiger -- not only Tiger, but your opposition is doing, it is very easy to get drawn into worrying about what your opponent is going to do as opposed to what you are doing yourself. It didn't make any difference what he was doing. I was still trying to do the best that I could do, take it from there. Especially with Tiger's length off the tee, it is very easy to get sucked into saying, oh, he is only going to be hitting 8-iron where I will be hitting 4-iron, so, it is very easy to fall into that kind of trap.

Q. Best thing is to just concentrate on what you can do?

DARREN CLARKE: That particular day, yeah, that is what I found, so I just went with what I have been doing all week, and as I said, it worked out that day.

Q. He was that much ahead of you?

DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, 40, 50 yards ahead of me whenever he wanted to be.

Q. Anyone else ever done anything like that to you before?

DARREN CLARKE: No. I am not usually 40, 50 yards behind anybody. Tiger is an exception. He hits it 40, 50, 60, 70 past everybody out here whenever he wants to.

Q. Have you played with Daly?

DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, quite a few times.

Q. You didn't feel --

DARREN CLARKE: No, Tiger is a bit different to John.

Q. Just when you thought a million dollars was a lot of money; this week it is more.

DARREN CLARKE: Exactly. A middle and 8, yeah, I believe, an extra 80,000 could come in handy.

Q. Can you tell us about your food poisoning celebrations?

DARREN CLARKE: Yeah I went straight to Dubai after La Costa and I come back -- was the first time I had been back since La Costa and we didn't do much for four days and then went into London, I took Heather, my wife, into London. We both got good poisoning, both sick over the weekend, so we didn't have too much celebration, unfortunately.

Q. Were you able to figure out what you ate that caused it?

DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, just a bad sandwich, a real bad sandwich.

Q. Couldn't afford something more than a sandwich?

DARREN CLARKE: I was in the middle of paying lots of bills in all the shops in London, so, my wife said we didn't have time to go for a proper lunch, too much shopping to do.

Q. Last week you struggled a bit on the greens?


Q. Was that a question of the climatization or --

DARREN CLARKE: I just think, no, last week the greens were a little bit grainy, but they overseeded them; because of that, then the ball was breaking in quite a few different directions and they were the type of greens if you holed a couple of putts early, you could hole a few. If you missed some early, you would miss a lot. Unfortunately I was the latter, I missed a lot. I didn't hole anything at all. I was missing them from all over the place.

Q. You have not worked on your stroke?

DARREN CLARKE: No, nothing, definitely, was just -- it was -- the greens were a struggle.

Q. Did you play -- I know you practiced in the range. Did you play any holes yesterday?

DARREN CLARKE: Yes, played 18 yesterday.

Q. Your impressions?

DARREN CLARKE: Course is fantastic. Greens are fast. Rough is thicker than last year and if the greens dry out, which no doubt I think they will, it will be a very, very tough test.

Q. Do you prefer that?

DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, with the harder the course the better.

Q. Are you still working with Butch?

DARREN CLARKE: We spent six hours yesterday working.

Q. What were you working on for six hours?

DARREN CLARKE: Just a few different things. Just working -- just falling into a couple of bad habits with my swing and we are working on that; spent a bit of time in the chipping area down there; then the putting green.

Q. Has La Costa changed your life in that are you recognized more; more demands on your time since then?

DARREN CLARKE: Certainly I am recognized a little bit more over here than I was before. Hasn't changed anything a lot that much.

Q. At the Match Play the subject of physical fitness came up a number of times. You beat two of the most physically fit players on the planet.

DARREN CLARKE: I am sweating. I have been in the gym early this morning.

Q. I wonder if you'd started any kind of a regular fitness program?

DARREN CLARKE: I have thought about it. I put a lot of thought into it.

Q. Have you reached a conclusion?

DARREN CLARKE: Yes, I am -- start working out shortly.

Q. How many times have you been asked about it?

DARREN CLARKE: Funny you should mention that - not that much. Just now and again.

Q. How is this tournament perceived among European Tour players such as yourself? How important is this tournament to you?

DARREN CLARKE: It is like the fifth major. It's the biggest, I think, probably the biggest tournament, say, out of the majors stroke-play event. As I said at the very start, 49 of the top 50 are here. It is very, very rare that you get a field that strong. It is one that everybody wants to win and everybody wants to play in.

Q. You talked about recognition factor, autographs, et cetera. Do you sense any change in the locker room attitude towards you, any sense -- any different glance, a look?

DARREN CLARKE: No, not really. It is just really another tournament really at the end of the day. I have to say that the PGA TOUR players over here have been unbelievable, every one of them has come up to me and said: Well done; fantastic playing, all that sort of stuff. Maybe even more so than at home in Europe.

Q. Would you get the impression that maybe they are pleased that Tiger could be beaten?

DARREN CLARKE: Possibly, because he is playing so well over here and he is winning almost every week that he tees it up. He has got that sort of, I don't know, aura about him that he -- obviously is the best player in the world and he is always playing so well. If you are playing against him week-in and week-out, which luckily we aren't, he is a tough guy to beat. Tough guy to beat anyway. This is his home turf. This is where he plays all the time. He seems to have beaten almost all the people every week.

Q. He has not contended here last couple of years; is that something to do with the Masters?

DARREN CLARKE: I don't know. It depends. I think Tiger's game is improving all the time and he has always tried to build around the majors because they are the ones that he wants; that we all want. Maybe he hasn't been as committed to winning this as maybe The Masters, I don't know, I haven't really asked him that question.

Q. If there were one aspect of his game or his character that you could miraculously be given, what would you ask for?

DARREN CLARKE: All the money. (laughs). I think his length, such a huge advantage. I think he has the ability to overpower golf courses even the longest ones that we play now and such an advantage especially somewhere like, for example, last week at Bay Hill the 12th hole -- on what day did Tiger make two eagles, Saturday? Friday. I hit my best drive and best 3-wood and I had 97 yards to go to the flag. He hit driver, 3-wood to 30 feet. He made eagle -- made two eagles. Third on that day, I hit driver, driver just 10 yards short of the green. He hit iron onto the green; made eagle as well. The ability to make eagles and par 5s is a huge advantage, but he is also incredibly straight to go along with his length.

Q. No par 5s, really?

DARREN CLARKE: For Tiger, no. No.

Q. You talked about the bad habits. I know Butch is keen on correcting regular bad habits. What are they in particular?

DARREN CLARKE: Just my club -- I keep dropping the club behind me. It gets stuck behind me. I have got to get it more right in front of me, basically get it more from in front of meet on the downswing.

Q. Can you feel yourself doing that?


Q. What kind of a coach is Butch? Is he a hard test master or a gentle persuader? How does he do it?

DARREN CLARKE: If I am hitting balls in the range, what have you, hit 3, 4 good ones he will say: Great shot, great shot. Then I hit one bad one and he says - as soon as you hit the bad one - "Where did you go for dinner last night." He completely ignores the bad ones and focuses on the good ones. He is very good. He knows exactly what he is talking about and he has helped me a great deal.

Q. When you get, as you said, the club -- when you drop the club in behind you, what happens with the ball when you hit a shot?

DARREN CLARKE: It depends. I have got to use my hands more than I need to square the club face up, so that is -- sometimes it goes right; sometimes it goes left. Just inconsistency, really, that is what happens.

Q. Is Butch easier to understand than Bob was?

DARREN CLARKE: Butch is -- he is a different kind of coach than Bob. Butch is very good. Bob was very good. I enjoyed working with him as well, but Butch is just helping me understand a lot on what I am trying to do which is one of the big things -- actually knowing what I am trying to do is a big thing.

Q. Where would they have been similar the two of them?

DARREN CLARKE: They are about the same height. (laughs). I don't know. Bob works his people very hard as Butch does as well. They like to see the guys putting in a lot of work.

Q. Would six hours be unusual then or --

DARREN CLARKE: To get Butch for six hours on my own, I was really thankful.

Q. Would that be an unusual length of time for you to work out?

DARREN CLARKE: That was between -- he walked a couple of last five holes with me and we had a quick lunch and went on to the range; on to the chipping area; on to the putting green. So it was a good day of work. He asked me when I was coming over and I said straight after Bay Hill. He said, well, do you want me to come in on Sunday because Tiger is not coming in until Tuesday. I said, yeah, that would be great. So it meant that I had all day yesterday with him without Tiger being here, so..

Q. How much of a difference do you feel he has made to your game overall?

DARREN CLARKE: I think he is making a very big difference. I think he has helped me understand things an awful lot more and has given me more confidence to work on what I am trying to do and the fact that he is working with the No. 1 player in the world and he is the coach for the No. 1 player in the world, if I can pick up any of Tiger's habits and his good habits, that will be great.

Q. Do you feel you can put your game right on the course?

DARREN CLARKE: Yeah. I hope so. I think when I hit bad shots now I am more aware of where they come from, shall we say; whereas, I wasn't quite before.

Q. Was there any special significance to the cigar you were smoking on the practice range yesterday?

DARREN CLARKE: It was just a little bit smaller than what I would have liked, but, no.

Q. How many cigars do you smoke a week?

DARREN CLARKE: Two or three a day, something like that.

Q. What are your thoughts on heading into The Masters this year and anything that you are going to work on for Augusta that will change any play this week?

DARREN CLARKE: No, not really. As always, it is a pleasure to get invited back to Augusta. I have probably gained a lot of confidence from my win at La Costa and I have been much more looking forward to competing there than what maybe I would have been before. I have a lot more confidence, the fact that I can actually challenge for the tournament as opposed to just making up the numbers.

JOAN V.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you for coming.

End of FastScripts….

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