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August 2, 2011

Darren Clarke


SCOTT CROCKETT: Darren, thanks, as always, for coming and joining us. Welcome to the Bridgestone Invitational, an event of course you know well, but before we reflect on that we have to reflect on Royal St. Georges. Give us your thoughts on that week and the time that you've had since then.
DARREN CLARKE: Hectic time since then to say the least. Haven't really had much time at all to savor at all with commitments and then last week, so I've had very little downtime since, was obviously a huge week for me, and I'm very proud to be sitting here as Open Champion.
SCOTT CROCKETT: I'm presuming you've never tired of that phrase, Open Champion.
DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, it was very nice. The first time it was mentioned was on the first tee last week at the Open. It was wonderful.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Reflect on this week. Obviously a course that you know well, a course that you've won on. Give us your thoughts going into this week.
DARREN CLARKE: The fairways are as soft as I've ever seen them. I'm used to the ball running off the fairways and into the rough here because of the slopes on them, but overall the course is in fantastic shape. The greens are pure, fast, and currently they're holding. They may not be that way by the time we get to the end of the week, but the course is fantastic.

Q. Can you tell me about your preparation for the PGA Championship, what you remember from Atlanta Athletic Club?
DARREN CLARKE: I can't really remember much about it, to tell you the truth. Apart from that, it was extremely difficult. I remember watching David Toms' hole-in-one on 15, the par-3, when he hit the 5-wood. But that's about the only thing I can remember. I think I might have dunked a couple of balls in the water on 18. I remember that, as well. I remember it being a very good but extremely difficult golf course.

Q. What do you expect going into the next major having just won one?
DARREN CLARKE: I don't know what to expect yet. I just hope I play as well as I did at St. Georges. It took me a long time to win the first major, and hopefully I get myself back up there and contending again. That's what my plans are.

Q. You just referenced it took you a long time to win your first, and it had been several years, I believe, since you even contended in a major. Was there any point during that period where you wondered or thought to yourself my time has passed, that it might not happen or I might not get there?
DARREN CLARKE: Possibly a little bit. But in all that time between I was contending, I had a lot of stuff going on in my life off the golf course. You know, golf was not my number one priority. You know, it was something that I'd always wanted to do, obviously, was to win a major and get myself in position to do it, and I had other things which were much more important to deal with.
From that point of view, I was doing the best that I could that whole period of time, and unfortunately it wasn't quite good enough. But at St. Georges, it was.

Q. As you're wrapped up into that final round, shot by shot, head down, and you see Dustin's ball go out of bounds at 14, and all of a sudden you know that you're four shots, five shots clear at the time, did that become any more difficult that last hour or the last four holes?
DARREN CLARKE: No, I didn't see Dustin's ball go out of bounds. I turned around and saw him dropping another one, so I figured, where did that go. Then it suddenly dawned on me that obviously he tried to get it up close and pushed it a little bit. But at that stage did it make it any more difficult? No, because I was in such a good state of mind that I knew exactly what I was trying to do, so it didn't really affect me at all, the fact that he had pushed one a little bit. I still knew there was a long way to go yet, and anybody that's played a competitive links golf course, you know one funky bounce, one bad bounce, I got a good one, anything can happen. So I was still very much switched on. Even though I had a good lead at that stage, I was still -- I was fine, I was still sticking to exactly what I had to do.

Q. You would think you'd be tempted, though, to --
DARREN CLARKE: The only way I got that way was on the 17th tee. I knew I was four shots clear on the 17th tee. At that point it was a case of right, don't do anything stupid. But that was the only time that I thought that way all day. You know, we've seen a few people make mistakes up the last couple of holes in majors, and I was determined not to do the same.

Q. Follow-up on the good bounce, how many times out of ten does that not take the good bounce?
DARREN CLARKE: It evened itself all up last week in the first two rounds in Killarney. I'm not complaining, give me the good ones at the right time in the right tournament, so I'll take my chances on that one. But that's links golf. You never know.
On the Saturday of St. Georges, I played as well as I could, and if I'd have putted anywhere good at all, I'd have had a much bigger lead going into Sunday. It didn't happen, and the course gave me a little bit back on Sunday, which I was very grateful for.

Q. This is a little early to tell, but how much does your expectations change on yourself as a player now that you're a major champion as opposed to the career that you had leading up to that week?
DARREN CLARKE: I don't think my expectations will change at all because I've always set myself pretty high standards and got extremely frustrated when I didn't get anywhere near them. In terms of what my expectations will be, they won't change at all. I want to keep playing and keep competing and keep contending and trying to win golf tournaments. That's why I've stuck through the bad time, as well, to put myself in position. If you don't put yourself in position, you can't challenge yourself. Or I can't, anyway. I put myself in position at St. Georges and came through.

Q. How differently are your peers treating you now that you've won one?
DARREN CLARKE: There's been lots of well dones and hand shakes and stuff like that, but probably still think I'm a fat so-and-so who likes to have a good time, but that's fine with me. It's fine.

Q. I'm just curious, have you heard from anyone out of the blue that kind of stunned you in the last couple weeks or meant the most or anything?
DARREN CLARKE: I've had some -- I've had very little time, as I said, to start to reflect on what's going on because I have been so busy, but I had a little bit of time on Sunday where I missed the cut in the Irish Open. I was so tired that actually two days off -- it was the Irish Open at home that I wanted to play well and I tried my best and didn't do any good. I got back home and I had a chance to open some mail on Sunday, and there was some very meaningful notes there, one from Jack and one from Arnie and from the Prime Minister and the President of Ireland, all sorts of really, really nice notes. So that was really cool.

Q. Can you share anything Jack or Arnie said?
DARREN CLARKE: No, they were just congratulatory ones. It was the same thing when I was asked about Tiger's text, what he said in that. That will remain between them and myself. It's not really my position to say anything.

Q. You were so composed on Sunday at St. Georges. Did you ever break down or anything?
DARREN CLARKE: When, afterwards?

Q. Yeah.
DARREN CLARKE: No, no. I was -- I don't know what came over me, I really don't. I wish I did because I had dreamt it much more often. But I was very comfortable with the position, I was very confident in what I was trying to do and I was hitting the ball nicely, so I was able to control for the most part what I was trying to do. So because I think the mental attitude was very, very good, and the work that I done with a couple of guys, Mike Finnegan and Bob Rotella certainly helped me a lot, but I was very uncharacteristically composed.

Q. You've enjoyed a few begin necessary in your days. How did it taste coming out of the Claret Jug?
DARREN CLARKE: To tell you the truth, there's been absolutely nothing in the Claret Jug. There has not been a drink in it. When it comes to things, I thought I could, but when I got my hands on it, I'm a little bit of a traditionalist and I didn't think it would be right to put anything in there. I'm not saying I won't, but at this stage -- maybe Christmas dinner or Christmas lunch I might have a little bit of Claret in there, but so far there's been nothing in there.

Q. How do you feel about playing with Tiger Thursday and Friday?
DARREN CLARKE: That'll be great. Tiger has been the best player in the world for a very long time. He has been the guy certainly over my career that has set the benchmark for all the rest of us, and personally he's a good friend of mine. It is fantastic, I think, not just for you guys but for all of world golf just to see Tiger Woods back playing again. I'm sure he will be trying to get himself back up to where he has been before, and personally I don't doubt he'll do that. But for us to have a chance to compete against him again can only be good for the game in general. So I think it's wonderful to see him back.

Q. Is it easier or more difficult to play, and why, with a friend?
DARREN CLARKE: It depends what stage of the tournament. First couple of rounds, not too bad. Last round if you're trying to beat a friend, a little more difficult. No, I'm looking forward to it. I've got the opportunity to play with Tiger in his first tournament back. I think it's brilliant. Hopefully I'm able to give him a little bit of stick and make him laugh a little bit the first couple of days, but that's great.

Q. What was it about you and Tiger that made the two of you click as friends?
DARREN CLARKE: Similar build, similar color, similar stature. (Laughter.)
I don't know. We just got on really well. He sort of got my sense of humor and I got his, and it was all those years ago we played first together in '96 at Linde in the Open there when he was still an amateur and when I was still with Butch. We spent a bit of time together in Vegas. I give him a little bit of stick and what have you. Nobody really -- I don't think anybody gives him that much stick. But no, he's been a very, very good friend to me over a very long period of time. I've got no idea why, but we just get on very well.

Q. There's been a lot of success among golfers in their 40s in recent years. We saw Tom Watson come close at the Open, actually in his 50s at the time, but haven't had a major winner until yourself back to Vijay in 2004, who was in his 40s. Does that surprise you at all?
DARREN CLARKE: Does it surprise me? Well, you had Tiger taking most of them in the meantime, so that was one obvious reason.
Secondly, I think possibly links golf would lend it to guys that are a little bit more experienced to having played a little bit more in those sort of conditions and knowing what to do. That's not something that especially guys from over here get the opportunity to do so often, as often as we do at home. So there's a few different reasons for it.
But surprised, no, not really, because Tiger was winning so many. But if you look at that leaderboard from St. Georges, there was a lot of us older guys up there.

Q. How much is confidence part of victory? And how do you have it if you haven't won in a while?
DARREN CLARKE: I think confidence is everything in victory. You need to have the self-belief that you can hit the shot when you need to hit the shot or make the four-footer when you need to make the four-footer. In any sport you need to have the confidence. How do you get it? Keep putting yourself in the position. Keep putting yourself in the position where it hurts if you mess up. You try to learn -- I'm 42, I'm still trying to learn. Although for me I think I won six weeks before the Open. I had already won a tournament during the season. And that was my first time back in contention for a while since 2008. I think that stood me in good stead going in there. So the feelings I was getting when I was leading and stuff were not that alien to me, albeit it was obviously a major, and to me the biggest and best tournament in the world. It was just -- you need to have that confidence, and I think I gained an awful lot of confidence from the way that I played on the Saturday. That stood me in great stead for Sunday because to me Saturday was a tougher day than what Sunday was, and I had bit the ball as good as I could, so it carried on into Sunday.

Q. Why was Saturday predicated on conditions assumedly, but how different of a test of confidence was it Saturday versus Sunday?
DARREN CLARKE: Saturday I was going out -- was I leading on Saturday? I can't remember. Tied for the lead. I was going out, and I had got myself into position, and on Saturday is the way when you're sort of jockeying about a little bit, isn't it. You guys know. But the way that I played and the way I started off hitting the ball, I actually grew more comfortable and grew more confident on Saturday. I had been there before, I had led a major before, albeit quite some time ago. I knew what to expect. It was just the sort of thing where experience playing in those conditions helped me all day and the whole weekend.

Q. You mentioned Tiger as the player to beat for a long time, and he mentioned that he's healthy now for the first time in a long time. I wonder if he's still the player to beat, or maybe to put it another way, the best player to measure yourself against still?
DARREN CLARKE: I won't know that or you guys won't know that until we go and see how he performs in competition. You can practice all you want and get yourself ready, but you don't really know until you put yourself into a competitive situation how good your game is. It'll be very interesting the first two rounds. And knowing Tiger like I do, I don't think he would come back to play unless he was ready to come back and play, both physically and mentally, and ready for the challenge again. I think we've all missed him, and it's great to have him back again, as I've already said, but we shall see what he's like coming in this week on a golf course which he's won so many times on.
I think even Tiger Woods could be a hard man to beat this week because of his record around this golf course. He loves it so much and has played so well here before. I wouldn't be surprised for one to see him have a really, really good week.

Q. Couple questions about PGA TOUR membership. Your thoughts on it?
DARREN CLARKE: I need to be politically correct here, don't I?

Q. No, be yourself, Darren.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Yes, you do.
DARREN CLARKE: You would love me to be myself and say what I'm really thinking, but I better not.
At the moment I haven't really -- as I said, everything has been changing for me since a couple of weeks ago. At the moment I haven't really thought about it. But I look at the PGA TOUR, and it's a wonderful Tour, and the whole thing about being a member is so you can participate in the FedEx at the end of the year. Playing in the FedEx is not really something that I would -- that would get my attention. It's wonderful that they've got it over here, but I've got other commitments and stuff, and my home is in Europe now. I really enjoy coming over and playing the PGA TOUR. It's a wonderful place to play with some of the best players in the world and some of the best tournaments and best guys in the world, but joining that commitment of 15 tournaments right now for me, I'm 42, I've been there, done that, I've been a member before. Do I want to commit to 15 tournaments again when I still want to keep my European Tour membership?
One of the big things for me was I moved back home from London to Portrush to take my boys out of boarding school so I could see them a little bit more. I didn't want them to grow up and me not see them. For me to put that extra commitment and play over here and play in Europe, I would lose that opportunity of spending as much time with them as I want to. It's something that Chubby and I need to sit down and take a look at carefully and see if it could work. And if it could work, then there's a decision to be made.

Q. Kind of the broader question I wanted to ask: As long as you've been around, is a need or desire to take up U.S. membership different than it was ten years ago based on how the world is kind of changing?
DARREN CLARKE: I think so. I think it is. Ten years ago I was a member of the PGA TOUR, and I was proud to be a member of the PGA TOUR, and I wanted to be a member of the PGA TOUR.
Now, with the way that the game is on a much more global basis, you know, European Tour is pretty good, as well. Other Tours around the world, look at the World Rankings, and the world, no matter what anybody says about the World Rankings, they're a pretty fair reflection of who's the best players in the world. We in Europe have got the majority of the top 10 players in the world right now. We're pretty fortunate, and we have some players who deserve to be in those positions. At that stage, to get the World Ranking points you needed to be a member of the PGA TOUR because there was more points over here; whereas, now when the World Ranking points have been balanced out more with different tournaments around the world, the necessity to be a PGA TOUR member is not quite there like it used to be. A lot of guys will take up opportunities to be members, but at my stage in my career when I'm 42, do I want to -- do I need to join the PGA TOUR again? For me right now at the moment, it's something that I haven't decided, but it's not as important as it was, say, ten years ago when I was a member previously of the PGA TOUR.

Q. Is it possible to even compare the first major to winning the three points as the captain's choice at the Ryder Cup with all that was going on?
DARREN CLARKE: It's not possible to compare, but I think the emotions and everything that I went through walking towards that first tee at The K Club in 2006, getting onto the first tee and making contact with the golf ball and managing to look up and see that it was thankfully going down the middle of the fairway, I will never forget anything more difficult on the golf course than I did that morning, and to this day when I am sitting here speaking to you, I still haven't faced anything as difficult as that. That in itself made Royal St. Georges an awful lot easier for me because I will never face anything as tough as what that was.

Q. You just talked before about how global this game was. What was the lure of you to sign up to play in the Australian PGA later this year?
DARREN CLARKE: Well, I haven't been down there for so long. I've got a lot of friends down there, both the players from Australia and other friends down there, and it came up the opportunity for me to go back again. I gladly accepted it. I'm looking forward to getting down there. It's going to be really hot and sticky and humid, so we'll see.

Q. Are you bringing the Claret Jug with you?

Q. Can you tell us what your boys thought about the Open Championship victory?
DARREN CLARKE: They thought it was fantastic. They were both very proud. One of them wondered what new clothes and stuff we could buy, and the other one wanted to get as much money as he could and then buy whatever he wanted to buy. So both of them, they were very proud, but they just wanted some money to go and buy themselves some stuff. Taking after their dad, I think.

Q. Also, now that you've won a major championship, at this point in your career do you feel like when you go into other majors from now on, do you feel like you're playing with house money or does it inspire you to want to win more majors?
DARREN CLARKE: A bit of both. Having won one, I would love to get myself in position to challenge them and win another one if I can. But I've got to get myself into position to do that. The fact that I've done it certainly feels very good.
You know, I've had a pretty good career. I've played five Ryder Cups. I won two World Golf Championship events. I've won 21 tournaments around the world. I've done this and I've done that. There's not much else that I haven't done, and now I feel very fortunate that I've won a major. It feels like I can just -- I'm much more relaxed now to go out and play. My determination and desire hasn't gone down. If anything, it's gone up, but I'm much more relaxed about the whole thing.
There's only two tournaments in the world that I really haven't play that I've ever wanted to play. I've been luck to play everywhere else around the world. One of them was the Grand Slam, obviously, and I'm in that one now which is fantastic; and the other one was Jack's tournament at Memorial that I've never played. So hopefully I get a chance to play there, as well.

Q. I'd like to hear what you have to say about a couple of holes on the back nine, the 12th hole, par-3 --
DARREN CLARKE: On which golf course?

Q. Right here. Uphill par-3, tactically, how do you approach that hole?
DARREN CLARKE: There's a little bit of a hog's back right in the middle of that green, and it depends what sort of position they get the flags in. If it goes -- the more difficult the pins are on the front part of that green because you can maybe use the slope of the back a little bit on No. 12. But it depends, if the breeze picks up at all, it's always a tough one to get the right club. It's like shooting up into -- there's not a lot of stuff to aim at there. It's all about club selection, getting the right one for there.

Q. And then the other par-5, the 15th hole, a little bit downhill 220 yards?
DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, playing longer obviously, again, picking the right club, but it's quite easy to miss it a little bit right. Right, you've got a chance; left, you're struggling to get it up-and-down. Most of the guys prefer aiming right center of that green to get it on there somewhere. It's a hole you're basically trying to make 3 and get onto the next tee. Anything less than that is a bonus.

Q. Why do you think such a big deal is made about your celebration, having too many pints after your British Open win? Do you have a sense of why that got so much attention?
DARREN CLARKE: I don't know why. I don't know. I think in the world we live in, as I said and have answered the question before, what I managed to do was -- the game of golf was sport and I won, and I feel very fortunate that I won. The things that are going on around the world, whatever happened in Norway where all those people got massacred in Norway, you've got the debt crisis going on over here, if people want to have a go at me for having a couple of pints, I've never changed in the way that I sort of look at things, and I don't plan to change. You know, they're entitled to their opinion. Not everybody's opinion matches.

Q. Do you think sort of the power has shifted a little bit to Europe? Has that changed the energy on the Tour at all? Has that changed the atmosphere in the locker room?
DARREN CLARKE: Well, I think we all in Europe are extremely proud that our Tour has got so many of the players in the top 10 in the world. It's a huge bonus for the European Tour, and deservedly so, because of the way that the guys have played. Those things are cyclical. It's going to change. It'll go back in the Americans favor again because you've got some fantastic players coming through, as well. But at the moment, it's a fantastic time for the European Tour.

Q. The longer you're away from the top of the game, does it make it much that harder to get back?
DARREN CLARKE: No, because I never felt that my game was that far away from where it was before. I know my scores weren't reflective of that, but my ball-striking and the way I was playing, I was never that far away. And the margins are so fine out here between success and failure that it's not always very easy to judge how somebody is playing.
For the most part, my game has been really good this past couple of years, but I haven't been able to get it all together. I've been able to do that an awful lot -- for the most part all year, and things have been better.
As I said, the game is fickle. It gives and it takes away. You get maybe, what, five, ten percent back out of the game of what you put in. I've certainly been putting 150 percent in and getting zero percent back out, and it's just turned around a little bit.
It's a case of, I don't know, pursuing your dreams and keep working, working hard. There is no substitute for working hard.

Q. I'm just curious, does this mean that Weight Watchers is on hold?
DARREN CLARKE: This Weight Watchers thing, I keep threatening to start, but I just can't get myself to do it, so I'm not quite sure. I think wearing black this week could be a good start and next week. I think that'll kick start the metabolism.

Q. I'm just curious if you still have all those outfits from Tony the Tailor.
DARREN CLARKE: They're still there. They'd be a little bit more figure-hugging now than when I wore them the last time, so they shall remain in the wardrobe.

Q. If someone knows you for five minutes, I think it's pretty easy to root for you for a lot of different reasons. Given your friendship with Tiger, why do you think someone should root for him?
DARREN CLARKE: Good question. Because beneath it all, beneath all the stuff that's happened, self-inflicted or otherwise, he's essentially a really good kid, a man, beneath everything. You know, sometimes his media image has been portrayed in a very poor, poor way, some of that, again, from some of the stuff that he's been through. But underneath it all, he has been a tremendous friend to me, and there's a real good side to Tiger Woods that nobody ever fortunately gets a chance to see. That's why.

Q. Along that side, sometimes people wonder what there is to root for Tiger. Is there something that you see in the last year, self-inflicted or otherwise, that you might as a friend say to him, do you want to do it this way or perhaps would you rather do it this way, or do you think that's not your place? I'm not asking you what you say to him, but do you ever have those conversations with him?
DARREN CLARKE: I have done. I have done. But he was arguably the best player the game has ever seen. You've got Jack and Tiger, and he was arguably the best player that the game has ever seen. I've just won one major. He's got buckets of them. It would be a little bit presumptuous of me to tell him what to do. But in saying that, I've told him what I think about what he's doing golf swing wise and stuff, and sometimes he takes it in and sometimes he doesn't take it in.
He has been the best player in the world and one of the best players to ever play the game, and I just hope he gets -- I genuinely hope he gets his game back up to the level that it was before because it was awesome.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Darren, best of luck this week.

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