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August 9, 2011

Darren Clarke


KELLY ELBIN: Reigning Open Champion Darren Clarke joining us at the the 93rd PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club. This will be Darren's 13th PGA Championship appearance, his best finish a tie for 9th in 2000 at Valhalla Golf Club. Welcome back to Atlanta Athletic Club as reigning champion and your thoughts on what you've seen of the golf course.
DARREN CLARKE: Obviously different to what I may have been here coming to play this week. But obviously it's been a huge change in everything that I've been doing, my schedule and everything. So hopefully I can play a little bit better this week than I did last week at Akron.
But the nine holes I played this morning, the course was magnificent, it really was. It was just superb. The fairways, you could almost put them down as carpet in your house at home, they are that good. I can't remember that much about the golf course, I think I might only have been here for two days in 2001 the last time we were here.
KELLY ELBIN: Yes, that's correct.
DARREN CLARKE: Thank you. The nine holes this morning, they were fantastic.

Q. I don't think anybody has had their coffee yet. Your friend, Westwood, has taken on a mental game coach, the guy that kind of helped you get over the hump a little bit last time around for you. I'm wondering what your thoughts were on that because he's always been a guy that sort of viewed those people with a decent amount of suspicion.
DARREN CLARKE: (Chuckling.) He has done in the past, yes. Lee is trying to get the best out of himself that he possibly can, and obviously with people, especially from the same stable, winning majors all around him, it's an avenue he has not explored in the past, and certainly working with Dr. Bob, it can't do any harm. It can't be a negative effect; it can only be a positive one.
Whether Lee sticks with it or not, because he's always been very mentally strong anyway, we shall see. But I certainly don't think it will do him any harm whatsoever. It can only do him good.

Q. Heading into sort of your first major since winning your first major, how much of what you did in preparation for Royal St. George's are you trying to incorporate in getting ready for this, or is that not the case?
DARREN CLARKE: Not really the case. Totally different obviously. Totally different golf courses. But I've played the same nine holes on Tuesday morning this morning as I did at St. George's on Tuesday morning, i.e., poorly. So it's pretty similar, so I shall be spending quite a bit of time on the range trying to figure it out a little bit.
But obviously totally different conditions. The heat is going to be a massive, massive factor this week, so totally different.

Q. Since winning, people say that it changes them and whatnot, you are obviously, let's say, a little more advanced age winning your first major than some others.
DARREN CLARKE: (Laughing.)

Q. Has it changed you in any way other than maybe you walk with your chest puffed out a little bit more than you once did?
DARREN CLARKE: No, definitely, I would like to think it hasn't changed me at all. Hope it won't and I don't think it will.
All I will say is that I'm still a little bit tired. I've had no time off since the Open, so I'll be looking forward to a couple of weeks off after this week. You know, I haven't played that well since, mainly due to the fact that I have not had any time off.
It's great to be here competing in all of the tournaments I want to play in, but it will be nice to have a little bit of a rest the next couple of weeks.

Q. You mentioned the heat. How do you like playing in heat? It will be a little bit different from St. George's?
DARREN CLARKE: Obviously I'm a finely-tuned athlete, so it should not affect me that much. (Laughter.)

Q. Floyd said he didn't mind playing in the heat, and you have sort of a similar build to what Raymond had.
DARREN CLARKE: Similar, yes. It's going to be hot. It's going to be hot for everybody. Last week in Akron it was hot, as well, but it's going to be even hotter here. You've just got to do your best, and, you know, for me I've got to drink an awful lot of fluids and try and keep focused on what I'm doing. But the heat is going to be tough for everybody this week.

Q. As the most recent major champion, I was wondering, do you think the game is better off without a dominant player so that we have a lot of other guys that are coming through now, or is it better if you have one player that everyone is looking to?
DARREN CLARKE: It's a pretty good question, that. But Tiger was the best player for a very long time and he raised the bar in terms of what everybody else did and everybody else's preparation and the way they went about tournaments. So in one way, it's good.
In another way, you have guys challenging all the time, different players; the likes of Adam Scott, who played sensationally well last week in Akron. It was great to see that for him, coming through and starting to hopefully win again on a regular basis, as he should.
But you know, Tiger has been wonderful for the game, he really has. He's raised the bar for everybody. So I would say the dominant player is the guy that everybody aspires to, which is what we all did with Tiger in terms of golf.

Q. A couple of things. First of all, wondered how the diet was going.
DARREN CLARKE: Splendid, thank you.

Q. Are you sticking to it yet?
DARREN CLARKE: I haven't even started it yet. I shall wait until I get home next week. I think the combination --

Q. -- of two light beers?
DARREN CLARKE: -- of two light beers I guess. The combination of black tops this week hopefully will kick start it.

Q. Wonder if you still get messages from people who were inspired by your Open victory?
DARREN CLARKE: Yes, and still am, which is amazing.

Q. Anything in particular?
DARREN CLARKE: No, just different texts and different messages still coming in from different people, which has been great.
It's obviously been one for the old guys, as it were, and a lot of people have been very, very pleased to see it, which I'm very grateful for.

Q. We had the lowest winning score, ever, in majors here last time; is that hard to believe, seeing how it's set up now?
DARREN CLARKE: Yes. How much longer is the golf course this year than last time?
KELLY ELBIN: A couple hundred yards longer.
DARREN CLARKE: It is hard to see, those nine holes this morning. I mean, the front nine is not that easy. And then you have 15, 16, 17, 18, which I have not got to yet, but I've been told all about.
It's going to be a pretty tough finish. But the scoring was obviously incredible the last time we were here, and I don't think it will be quite as good this time. This is a pretty stern test, it has to be said, out there.

Q. Since winning and playing over here, have you been struck by how many Irish there are in the world and how many of them there are in this part of the world in particular?
DARREN CLARKE: There's Irish everywhere. They have been wonderfully supportive as have all of the American people that I've seen since I've been here.
For one reason or another, the people seem to like me, so they have been shouting an awful lot and supported me, which has been good.

Q. I was going to ask you, last week and this week are sort of rewards for winning at Royal St. George's, how special is it now knowing that you're going to be playing these events and the WGCs for the next few years, and also, will you change your schedule and play events like Houston the week before the Masters?
DARREN CLARKE: Everything has obviously changed, Bernie, but I still as yet have not had time to sit down and go through everything because I have been busy since the Open.
The scheduling thing, I'm going to have to have the conversation with Chubby pretty soon and try to figure out what I'm going to do next year. But it's certainly exciting that all of those avenues have opened up for me again.

Q. From a player's point of view, how unfortunate do you think it was that Adam Scott's fine win on Sunday was somewhat overshadowed by all of the caddie hoopla?
DARREN CLARKE: Well, my caddies have won 21 tournaments around the world. (Laughter.)
I don't know, Stevie is an over-exuberant sort of guy. Adam obviously played fantastic golf, and you know, I think if it had of been my caddie, he might have kept it a little bit quieter. But each to their own. I'm sure Stevie didn't mean any harm by it, but he was just very excited to win with Adam.

Q. Realizing the style of play is entirely different, but how are your expectations going into this major different than they were going into the Open?
DARREN CLARKE: About this time on a Tuesday, they are exactly the same from what they were at The Open because of having played poorly nine holes the Tuesday morning of The Open.
But this is totally different. And the golf course is different; the shots are different; what's required is totally different. So, you know, I've just got to go to the range and work on my ball striking and hopefully get that back to a level where I can control my ball flight. And then if I can do that, I'll go and play, and see how good my best is this week. You know, that's what I'm trying to do every week. If I can play my best, my best is good enough to contend and to win.
And if I don't play my best, I'm trying as hard as I can. So, we shall see.
My expectations are pretty even-keel. If I play my best, I'll see how I get on.

Q. As Open Champion, I wonder do you feel any extra pressure to play well as Open Champion to represent?
DARREN CLARKE: No. You guys know me as well as I do; I play well sometimes and I play poorly sometimes. I've always been the same and I don't think anything will change.
I will certainly be doing my best and trying to play well, but in terms of feeling any extra pressure, no, I'll just go and play and see how I get on.

Q. With the Steve Williams thing on TV on Sunday night, there's been a lot of discussion over what a caddie does and how much difference he can really make. Those of us that are civilians and are not out there, how much do you lean on him? How much of a difference can it make? What do you look for in a guy? And everybody's wired a little different; do you want a guy that pats you on the head, kicks you in the ass? What do you look for?
DARREN CLARKE: Both of those things. I think you need -- I think one of the big things, certainly, that I look for in a caddie is knowing when they need to speak up, knowing when they need to give their player a kick up the ass or whatever or give them a little "great shot," "come on," where something goes wrong, you get a funky bounce or something and saying, "Come on, get on to the next one." It's knowing when to speak and when not to speak. I think the best caddies in the world have learned the art of understanding their player and knowing what to say and when to say it, and that's a hard thing to find because not everybody gets on and has the same views.
Billy Foster, who I was fortunate to have on my bag, Billy for 12 years, and Billy was absolutely brilliant. He's as good a caddie as I will ever have, and he's with Lee now, but he was very much that way and he made the difference in quite a few times that I've won with the way that he's been with me down the stretch.

Q. You and Tiger have a long history of supporting each other; I was curious where you thought his game was right now, and do you think he could win this week?
DARREN CLARKE: I thought his game -- I thought his game last week in the first two rounds was pretty good. Albeit I was chopping out of the trees an awful lot, so I didn't get to see it up close that much.
But I thought he hit an awful lot of really, really good golf shots. And to come back after a long layoff, you can practice as much as you want, but until you get into competition and actually put yourself back into a competitive arena, it's totally different.
He got last week under his belt, which was great to see him back competing again, and I'm sure this week, if Tiger plays the golf he can play, I have no doubt he can be in contention this week.

Q. What is the perception of the long putter, from those who don't and have never used it, on Tour?
DARREN CLARKE: What's the perception of the long putter -- no, it's not desperate. I didn't say that, he did; that wasn't me (pointing to media member).
Whatever works, there's so many guys using so many different methods now. If you go back maybe ten years or so, the belly putter was frowned upon, the long putter was frowned upon, left below right was frowned upon. You've got Robert Garrigus, how long is his putter, 27 inches or something; you have so many different methods and so many different things.
It's just another method nowadays, which obviously Adam Scott looks fantastic with it. I don't know what he's done but he actually looks quite -- to me, he looks really natural with it and looks really comfortable with it, and obviously it worked very well last week.
I spoke to Adam about it, and he's very pleased with it. He said he can't see himself going back to a short one at all.

Q. What did winning at St. George's teach you?
DARREN CLARKE: Patience and to never give up. That's what it taught me. I was very patient the whole week, of which I have not been that often in the past. But you know, you never know what the game is going to give you. You never know what's around the corner.
Just never give up; keep going, keep going, keep going. That's what it taught me.

Q. I had another question, but just to follow on John, are you talking about patience during the four rounds --

Q. Or patience during the full year?
DARREN CLARKE: Everything. Everything. You know, the game is -- what was it Doc said, Sunday, the winner -- the next day everyone tees up even-keel, and the winner Sunday doesn't really make a difference, you're all competing against each other the following week. The game, as I said, is quite fickle. You can play great one week and not so good the next week, and a couple of good breaks here or there makes a huge difference. So learning to be patient with it is hugely important.

Q. Without naming names, going back to the caddie situation, can you tell us the worst thing a caddie has ever said to you at the wrong time?
DARREN CLARKE: What's the worst thing that a caddie has ever said to me? I've had my caddies frequently not speak to me for all 18 holes, frequently not speak to me for 18 holes. So that's probably the worst thing.
Then the more they don't speak, the louder I get and it's just a little bit worse from there. But I've had them frequently not speak to me, which I can't understand why because I'm a really nice guy most of the time (smiling broadly).

Q. Nearly three years ago Pádraig Harrington sat where you're sitting now, three major championships in a short space of time; as a close friend are you as fascinated or flummoxed by what's happened to him over the last three years? What's your take?
DARREN CLARKE: Pádraig has always been a guy who, his desire and determination, has been immense, and that has not changed. I think his recent thing with parting company with Bob was born more out of frustration than anything else.
He wants to succeed. He's desperate to succeed. And he's won three majors. There's not many players out here playing at the moment that have won three majors so he's been one of the best players in the world and he's striving to get back up there again.
So knowing Pádraig like you do, I do, he will keep working until he gets his game back up to where he wants it again.

Q. Kind of a two-parter. Do you think we might see another American win a major in our lifetime? (Laughter.) And is there a sense of pride among players outside the U.S. of how worldly they have made this game here recently?
DARREN CLARKE: Well, I think you know, the PGA Tour has given the non-American players a huge opportunity to come over and play here whenever they start opening up the PGA Tour for the guys to come over and play. Consequently, they have come over here and have become more comfortable over here and competing on the courses that they are playing on; and because of that, they are competing against the guys that are winning majors all the time and have the opportunity to do so.
You look at the field this week in The PGA, how many international players have we got?
KELLY ELBIN: Quite a lot.
DARREN CLARKE: A lot more than we used to have.
KELLY ELBIN: Absolutely.
DARREN CLARKE: The whole game has opened up now. The European Tour now, of which I'm proud to be a member, we have got some fantastic players. And there are great players dotted all around the world, but the more that the Tour have opened up to come and play over here, then the stronger the foreign players have got to become.
But in saying that, you still have the likes of Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler and the other young guys coming through over here. To answer your question, I'm sure it's cyclical at the moment and Americans will start winning again very, very soon. But at the moment, it's a wonderful time for The European Tour.

Q. Did you know you had a huge fan base out in Korea, as well?
DARREN CLARKE: I didn't know that, but that's nice to see. Any time I have a few more people liking me, that's always good.

Q. A question about the relationship between Phil Mickelson and you. What type of relationship do you have?
DARREN CLARKE: Well, Phil, obviously his wife was diagnosed with a disease of which I was very familiar with a few years ago, and we have spoken at length about it.
You know, he's been a very, very good friend to me, as well, over this past few years, and I have been offering little bits and pieces of advice whenever he's asked. So you know, he was very kind to me behind the 18th green at St. George's when he came over and gave me a hug and stuff and said a few very kind words to me.

Q. Did that inspire you to win this last Open?
DARREN CLARKE: I had lots of reasons for trying to win The Open. Did that inspire me? Not really, no; there was lots of other different reasons.
KELLY ELBIN: Darren, this Sunday just happens to be your 43rd birthday.
DARREN CLARKE: I was hoping you weren't going to mention that.
KELLY ELBIN: What would it mean to win the PGA Championship on your birthday?
DARREN CLARKE: It would obviously be very special. I may go AWOL for a few days again like did I the last time. But it would be very special, yes.
KELLY ELBIN: Darren Clarke off with the other two major champions at 1:45 Thursday afternoon. Thanks very much.

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