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July 27, 2011

Darren Clarke


STEVE TODD: Darren, many thanks for joining us here in Killarney, Irish Open as The Open Champion, I bet that feels pretty good.
DARREN CLARKE: It does. It's just about started to sink in a little bit now. No, it's great to be first tournament to come back and play in, the Irish Open, wonderful.
STEVE TODD: And back to reality, try to win another tournament.
DARREN CLARKE: Definitely, but here of all places, I think what the tour have done and the Irish -- to putt on the Irish Open with no sponsor, to have this it premiere tournament on The European Tour, to keep it going is fantastic, and the support of all the Irish guys, Pádraig and G-Mac and Rory and Paul and all of the Irish guys coming to play in support, hopefully this week we'll all give the crowd something to roar about.
STEVE TODD: Last year, magnificent crowds and it's going to be same again this year, and the celebration with you and Rory both in the field.
DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, and, you know, it should be fantastic. We had massive crowds here last year. The pictures going around the world from the Irish Open just showcasing Ireland were brilliant and let's hope we have more of the same this year.
STEVE TODD: You were second in 2001; what would it mean to do the double?
DARREN CLARKE: It would be wonderful to do the double. Usually my tee times in the past have always been late on a Friday just about making the cut and first off on a Saturday morning, so last year, I played nicely here last year. Hopefully I can play a little bit better this year and give myself a chance.

Q. When did the celebrations start to wane and the business head come back on?
DARREN CLARKE: Probably Thursday. I think I lit the candle a little bit too much on both ends and had the flu over the weekend and spent some time in bed. A little bit run down, so probably last Thursday, something like that.

Q. Have you played much, Darren?
DARREN CLARKE: I played on Friday with three of my mates in Portballintrae, Bushfoot in Portballintrae; they hammered me, so got back to reality pretty quick. And then I played with Tyrone and Conor, we played 13 holes at Royal Portrush on Sunday morning and that's all I did. I didn't have time. I was so busy going from here and there, do this and do that, which was fantastic, but I just didn't have time to really look at the clubs.

Q. Is there a danger or temptation to say, what happens the rest of the year doesn't matter, Europe champion?
DARREN CLARKE: There most definitely is temptation, Mark. I've been fortunate in that I've done nearly everything there is to do in the game. I've won a major, albeit I'd like to win more if possible. I've played Ryder Cups; I've won big tournaments both around the world and in America, everywhere.
You know, I need to reassess and sit down and figure out some goals. I spoke to Bob Rotella yesterday, I spoke to Mike Finnegan; I was supposed to call him back last night. I was a bit tired, so I was in bed by half eight, so I didn't get a chance to speak to them. There was a lot about reassessing some goals and trying to work towards something else now.

Q. Was part of those goals have to include the fact that you now have an extension of your career?

Q. With five years' worth of exemptions.

Q. Is that something you're going to have to sit down toward the end of this season and go: This is what I'm going to do now?
DARREN CLARKE: Yes, a lot of that's going to Chubby and not myself. I end up going where he tells me to go, most of the time. But we've touched on it briefly but toward the end of the year, that's when I'll figure out what I'm going to do. I have fortunately quite a few options, such as to whether or not to join the PGA Tour. Some guys it's better for than others, and we'll take a look at that and just see what fits into my schedule.

Q. You've been saying this for a while that you're a lot happier, you've been a lot happier off the course. The reaction to your win, is that one of fulfillment on the course, as well?
DARREN CLARKE: Yes, it has. I've been trying for a very long time, and you know, I've been probably saying to you guys, I'm playing okay, I'm playing okay, but I'm not quite scoring and it all came together for me at Sandwich. I caught the good bounces at the right time and made all the difference. I played well, as well, obviously, but to reach that pinnacle, looking back on, that has been wonderful because I've been trying to do it for so long and eventually got there.

Q. Have you seen any tapes or footage?
DARREN CLARKE: No, I haven't seen. I watched maybe a couple of minutes of it, but I haven't really watched anything else yet.

Q. Would it be fair to say that you actually arrived at St. George's not quite happy with your swing, because you did a lot of work with Pete very early on in the week.
DARREN CLARKE: I played really well the first two rounds, which took three days up in Scotland, but I played really well, and then the last round, I played poorly and I was very, very annoyed with myself, because you know, I felt as if I was playing really well and I was trying to give myself a chance, and I did.
But then I played poorly on Sunday, so I wasn't in the best place by the time I got to Sandwich. I worked very hard as I always do, and you know, things came together with Pete on the range, and then Bob Rotella on Wednesday lunchtime.

Q. Having won the Open, are you looking at the future differently now as Open Champion, as opposed to still trying to achieve --
DARREN CLARKE: I probably am looking at it differently. I feel much more relaxed. I think it's not going to make any difference as to my desire and determination to win tournaments but I'm much more relaxed and looking towards the future, yes. Because that was the one that I've always strived towards winning, unfortunately I have done. And now, yes, I want to play well, and one of Rotella's old saying is try less and get more; whereas I've done trying a lot and getting a little bit. So now I will try less and hopefully get a little bit more.

Q. How do you see yourself now as a golfer, walking out to the first tee, Open Champion, does that change the image of yourself?
DARREN CLARKE: Not really, no. Just because I've won a golf tournament, albeit it the biggest and best in the world, it has not changed the perception of myself. It has not changed me in any way whatsoever. I've won The Open. But you know, I've got no reason to change; I'm not a much more wiser person than I was a couple of weeks ago. I've won a golf tournament and I want to win some more.

Q. How difficult is it to refocus after winning, and obviously this week being the Irish Open, has that made it a lot easier?
DARREN CLARKE: As I said, that's something I haven't really thought about. But as I mentioned, I do need to reassess my goals.
And it would be wonderful to get off to a good start again after being Open Champion by playing well this week. It is better that it's here, the Irish Open, coming home and playing here. Pádraig started the whole run off after such a long break, with winning the three Majors and G-Mac and Rory; without Pádraig's inspiration at the start, I don't think any of us would be sitting here.
But to come here and play and be part of those other three coming here as Open Champion is very, very special. My goals, we'll see how I play this week.

Q. Did you feel a little left out at Sandwich, four of you playing, three of you with Majors?
DARREN CLARKE: Not left out no, not at all, because I've been trying and been genuinely delighted for the other guys. I'm a little more delighted now that I've been able to join them in the same sort of Major Champion status. Pádraig is still quite a bit ahead. He's got three and the rest of us have been one. He has been the standard bearer in terms of Major winners in Irish golf of late, so I think we are all striving to catch him.

Q. Are you hoping The Scottish Open will go back to Castle Stuart? I know it was a disaster weather-wise.
DARREN CLARKE: I actually enjoyed the golf course. I think the golf course was very good. They were unfortunate obviously with the weather. I thought Castle Stuart presented its own challenges. Unfortunately we didn't get as much wind as what we would have liked, and I think the main defence to Castle Stuart, like any links, is wind.
We had very, albeit rough weather, in terms of rain and thunder and lightning, but we haven't about much wind. I think the winning score, it was not quite that easy, but you need wind there. Hopefully we'll have another chance to be back.

Q. Has anything surprised you in people's reaction to your win, people's messages or people saying things to you?
DARREN CLARKE: All of my messages have been fantastic. But there's been a little bit of chat about, he shouldn't have had a drink, he shouldn't have done this, he shouldn't have done that.
And you know, I don't know, people need to get real. Look what happened in Norway over the weekend. I won a golf tournament and people are concerned about whether or not I had one pint too many. I mean, get a life. It's sport.
It's fantastic and I'm very fortunate to win, but you have 93 people that got murdered in Norway. That's a lot more important than talking about whether I had one pint too many or not. That's my opinion. That's the bit that surprised me.

Q. In terms of saying you're more relaxed, being able to play more relaxed, do you think you will be able to play more relaxed or do you think that --
DARREN CLARKE: I will endeavor to play more relaxed. That's the best way of putting it. I'm sure when I tee it up on that first tee tomorrow I'll be as determined as ever. I just might not be quite as hard on myself as I have been in the past which hopefully will work in my favour.

Q. You touched on Pádraig being the inspiration behind these wins for Ireland, but can you put your finger -- I know this question has been asked of you a couple of times recently but can you put your finger on today for an answer why three in a row from Ireland, from Northern Ireland, have done what they have done; different courses, as well, it's not just being able to play links golf. There's something else, isn't there.
DARREN CLARKE: I don't know what it is. I can't answer that question. I've thought about it and I can't really answer it.
Again, ask the other guys; I think it's just sheer determination. I think that's an Irish trait, and Pádraig is the embodiment of that: Determination and practise and hard work. Pádraig does that probably more than anybody and G-Mac works hard and Rory is blessed with a different kind of talent than all of us. I've worked hard. It's just that -- a work hard ethic at your chosen sport and that's why we've done it.

Q. It's not something in the water then?
DARREN CLARKE: No. (Chuckling).

Q. Talking about the other Irish boys before you, is there a real link between you winning, or is that just a coincidence, because you are individuals.
DARREN CLARKE: We are all totally individuals. But Irish golfers, if you were to watch them week-in, week-out on Tour, invariably we all eat with each other, we all play practise rounds with each other and there is a big link between all of the Irish golfers. Not that there isn't amongst the other guys as well, but the Irish ones are always very close.
Certainly when I first turned pro, the likes of Des Smyth Eamonn Darcy and Christy Junior, they all looked after me, as well as Chubby's other guys in the stable. The Irish almost close ranks around each other and make sure each guy is okay when they come out on Tour. You know, because it's a big sort of family thing amongst the Irish on Tour and they just are all pulling for each other.

Q. Do you think you would have won your Major if the other boys had not won before?
DARREN CLARKE: I would hope so but I can't answer the question. I don't know.

Q. Did it make it easier?
DARREN CLARKE: Did it make it easier? No, it was still tough. But I was delighted that they had actually won Majors. That's the feeling. There's no form of jealousy among the Irish. It's more delight that they do it and have done it.

Q. Do you reply to messages criticising the way you celebrate?
DARREN CLARKE: No. People are always entitled to their opinion and you respect people's opinions. But you know, as you know, I look at things a little bit different.

Q. But this is mostly text messages to you --
DARREN CLARKE: No, no, it wasn't text messages. It was some sort of debates and radio shows and phone-ins and that sort of stuff. It was debates. People are entitled to their opinion and they may be, but there are bigger and more important things than me winning a golf tournament.

Q. So the party goes on?
DARREN CLARKE: Well, I've been in bed for a couple of days, so -- but no, I'm not going to change anything that I do. Why? I think it would be very poor of me if I was to change the way that I am because of a few people's opinions, and that's not going to happen.

Q. Bob Rotella was saying that he had been saying to you for almost 12 years, try less and get a bit more; why did you suddenly listen to him at Royal St. George's, and having heard him once, do you regret not listening to him earlier?
DARREN CLARKE: As Chubby will attest, it takes a long time for things to get into head and stay there. I listen and I listen and I listen. If it doesn't work immediately then I tend to sort of discard them a little bit.

Q. Why that week?
DARREN CLARKE: I don't know. I really don't know. I'm more at ease with myself. I'm happier at home. You know, I've got a wonderful fiancée. The kids are doing great. I think moving back to Ireland has been a huge plus for me. Maybe I was just ready to listen, I don't know. Strange. I can't answer that one, Karl.

Q. Just on that, could it maybe have been a case that, you know, the clock was ticking loudly and you were thinking: This is maybe my last chance?
DARREN CLARKE: It was. I said that to Chubby a few weeks before I said to him, I don't have many more chances to win The Open, and I want to try to prepare properly, because of my attachment to my previous sponsors, they looked after -- they sponsored the tournament at Loch Lomond, so my ability to go and play links golf was diminished to get myself prepared properly. Whereas this time, with having been at home a lot more, playing more golf in Royal Portrush, and I said to Chubby, I want to try to give myself the best chance possible.
So I went over to Sandwich and had a long practise round the Monday prior to the French. So, yes, I realised -- I said to Chubby, I don't have many more chances and I want to give myself the best chance that I can, and as it turned out, it went my way.

Q. How are you going to keep Dark Darren locked away in the wardrobe and Smiling Darren out?
DARREN CLARKE: I'm sure you and your fellow musketeers standing a couple of seats behind you will remind me and say: 'You're said you're going to be happy all the time; as soon as I have one of those moods.
I don't know. You know, why should I get annoyed? But if I don't get annoyed when I play poorly, I'm in the wrong job. I'm not going to be sweetness and light all the time if I've had a bad day. I'm not going to be pleased if I'm playing poorly but hopefully I won't be quite as bad as I was before.

Q. What portion of your success culminated in The Open can you attribute to Chubby's shepherding?
DARREN CLARKE: Chubby, he's been my manager, he's been like another father for me; he's been a friend for a very long time, the first day we met and he's looked after me through thick and then as I've said, through good times and bad times, and he's always been there for me. I've annoyed him a few times and he's annoyed me a few times, but not many; I think you could count it on one hand in the case of 21 years. We have a special relationship with no contract, shake of a hand, and his word is good enough for me.

Q. Youngsters winning their first major are often warned, don't say yes to everything, don't go flying around the world; does that apply to you as well?
DARREN CLARKE: Again, that's down to Chubby's expertise as to what he thinks I should do and shouldn't do.
But the good thing about it is that with Louis winning last year, with Charl winning the Masters this year and Rory winning the U.S. Open, he's already been there and done that with all of the other guys. So he knows his opinion will be very much in line with what I should do and what I shouldn't do. There's tournaments that I'll go and play in because I want to go in and play in, and there are tournaments I'll go and play in because I'm getting looked after to go and play in them.
It's a balance of playing enough golf but not playing too much. I still want to remain competitive. I don't want to be chasing myself all over the world week after week after week. Chubby won't let me do that.

Q. How many events do you know that you are now going to play that you wouldn't have done as Open Champion?
DARREN CLARKE: Why would you ask me that question? The man you should ask is sitting at the back of the room. You know I know absolutely nothing about my schedule. He knows it all.

Q. You don't know beyond the next two weeks?
DARREN CLARKE: No -- well, a little bit, but I don't know. Chubby is yet to decide where I should play and where I shouldn't play.

Q. Going back to the Chubby thing, you were talking about Charl and Louis, I mean, Chubby waited a long time to have a Major winner and now it seems that they are just queueing up inside the office. Were they an influence on you as much as Rory and G-Mac just having people you work with?
DARREN CLARKE: They are also really, really good guys. I think the thing with Chubby, all of the guys that come on and join ISM, the common denominator is they are all good guys, and if they are not, they are not there for long. They mix in with everybody else. We give each other a little bit of stick and there's always a little bit of abuse flying amongst us all. But because of that, that builds an atmosphere of friendship and respect; if they can do it, I can do it, that sort of way. Because usually, Chubby has got most of the best players these days fortunately, and because of that, the feeling within ISM is a winner's mentality, and that's something that Chubby has nurtured for a very long time.

Q. On the upside, you've had criticism obviously but on the upside, in my experience sin you won The Open, people I speak to, say they love you because you are seen as one of them, you'll have smoke, you'll have a drink, are you very much aware of that yourself?
DARREN CLARKE: Yes, I am, to a certain degree. I haven't changed, I'd like to think I haven't changed. Drink a little bit too much, smoke a little bit too much, and enjoy myself a little bit too much at times. But when it comes down to it, I'll put my head down and work whenever I really have to, as well.
I've always tried to enjoy myself. The game is very tough at times, and the game -- you think you've got it in the palm of your hand, and then all of a sudden it disappears. For me, the way that I relax and try and get away from it is I do like to have a pint now and again and relax and enjoy myself. I don't plan to change that in any shape or form.

Q. Going back on Twitter?

Q. Big time.
DARREN CLARKE: That's his fault, Chubby said, "You've got to get back on again. You've got to get back on again." No, he said, "Listen, you should get back on again, so many people are sending you so many good luck messages." So I'm back on.

Q. You have a huge following in the United States and you've always liked playing over there, how big is your ambition actually to go back there and give it one really good, last go?
DARREN CLARKE: Why, you know -- I've won over there a couple of times already. If it works into my schedule, then I'll join. If it doesn't, I won't. You know, for me, I'm 42. I've been there and done it. I've played it over there and enjoyed it over there and had a great time over there and played pretty well over there.
But to go and play a full-time schedule, to join, to get into the FedEx at the end of the year, I've got other things that I might want to do, as well. Might want to go fishing. (Laughter).

Q. This is obviously going to further enhance what the kids think about Irish golf, the roots really are involved now in Ireland.

Q. And this can only help and also, will you be having anything to do with golf development?
DARREN CLARKE: I have got my Darren Clarke Foundation, which is developing junior golf in Ireland, which had been pushing through; half of it's for developing junior golf in Ireland, and the other half is for breast cancer research. And I also have any Darren Clarke golf school in Antrim, which has been wonderful, as well. From a couple of years ago, I have 38 students in a two-year course from 16 to 18 where they get taught academically in the morning and then they get golf lessons with pros and everything in the afternoon. I'm trying to do my little bit to give a little bit back to the game in Ireland to find the next Rory, the next G-Mac, the next Pádraig and give those guys an opportunity to do that.
The foundation is basically to try and find the next ones, and then the school is also there as a way to develop and nurture the new ones. I'm always aware that the game, especially with the support in Ireland has been very good to me so I'm doing my bit to make sure I give a little bit back.
We have a couple of fantastic young players in the school at the moment, Paul Cutler and Alan Dunbar, and there's another young guy, Jack Hume, he won all of the Irish Boys' titles a few years ago. There are so many good, young kids coming through again.
We are fortunate in Ireland at the moment, there's a bit of a conveyor belt there. But that's down to a lot of the work that the Golf Union of Ireland do, as well, with their facility that they have got.
You know, I just think there's so much more that goes into amateur golf now in Ireland than what there used to be and top-class amateurs now are almost professional with the way that they manage the game, the way that they prepare themselves. I think any little bit of help or advice that I can give to them and make them a little bit better, I'm keen to do.

Q. Do you think you can still win the Grand Slam?
DARREN CLARKE: I haven't even thought about it. I haven't even thought about it at all, Brian. I want to go back and play and enjoy myself and see how I get on. Do I think I can win some more? Yeah. But we'll see. We'll see. If I can continue on with my relaxed attitude, which may all disappear after two holes tomorrow, but if I can carry on with it, then hopefully I can win some more.

Q. At least you're playing in them now.
DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, exactly. Much easier to win them than when I'm not and watching on TV.
STEVE TODD: Thank you.

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