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THE IRISH OPEN


June 27, 2012


Darren Clarke


PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND

NEIL AHERN:テつ Darren, great to have you here again, in what's turning out to be the golfing event of the year by the look of things.テつ Obviously you've had a huge part to play in the build up to this tournament more than anybody else.テつ It must be extremely pleasing for you for this to be coming to fruition in this way.
DARREN CLARKE:テつ It obviously is.テつ The Irish Open has always been one of my favourite tournaments and to have it here in Royal Portrush with this amount of people here already coming to the tournament; sold out for the first time in European Tour history; and to look out and see all the stands around and the people around makes me very, very proud.テつ It's not just me; I mean, everybody at Royal Portrush and the locals are right behind it.
As you can see, it's all worked out unbelievably well.テつ The players love it.テつ It's almost got an Open feel, which is what I think the course deserves.テつ It's fantastic to look out there and see all of the locals and what everybody have achieved.
NEIL AHERN:テつ With everything involved and you coming back here and such an historic occasion, is it more than a golf tournament to you in a sense?
DARREN CLARKE:テつ Yes, it is.テつ It's just a very special place.テつ Portrush, I moved up here when I was young, and I played an awful lot of my golf here and moved back a couple of years ago.テつ Winning The Open last year was due, a lot of it was due to the fact that I was living here again playing in Royal Portrush.テつ To have all of the fellow tour pros to see the golf course, some of them have not been here before, and every one bar none has been full of praise already.
The course is looking fantastic.テつ The European Tour agronomy team have done an incredible job to produce the golf course that they have.テつ We had a tough couple of months there early in the year where there was very little rain and it was dry, it was cold, so there was no rough.テつ There's a lot of worried faces in the locals.テつ But you know, the head green keeper here, Joe Findlay and Eddie and The European Tour, they have done an unbelievable job.テつ And indeed the members of the course at Royal Portrush have put up with a lot to try and get the golf course up to the level that its at right now, which is successful.
NEIL AHERN:テつ Coming to this tournament, you're coming back from an injury.テつ How is your fitness and game overall?
DARREN CLARKE:テつ Not too bad.テつ I've been down here quite a lot just practising.テつ I'm feeling not too bad, a little bit there but not much at all.テつ Looking forward to getting back.

Q.テつ Obviously the results have not been what you would have liked over the last while.テつ Do you think this is a tournament maybe that could inspire you to turn things around?
DARREN CLARKE:テつ Yeah, pretty good.テつ The forecast this week is for some pretty normal Portrush weather which might not be too good, might not be to everybody's liking.
So the golf course, I've played it in some pretty horrific conditions; so hopefully that will be a little bit of an advantage, as it will be to most of the Irish guys that have played here before.テつ It's a golf course that you need to know a little bit, and definitely in bad weather.
As for myself, I've been working away and hopefully things will turn around pretty soon and get back to where it's been.

Q.テつ You said you would playeven if you needed a Zimmer Frame; are you going to need one?
DARREN CLARKE:テつ No.テつ I'll crawl around.

Q.テつ Has the response been overwhelming even for you?
DARREN CLARKE:テつ It really has.テつ When you come down‑‑ I live up in the hill over there, and you are looking down and you can see the grandstands and all of the people walking around the golf course.テつ It's on a pretty big acreage of land this golf course; and you can see people on the tees and greens and walking around; and the response from all of the locals, the whole area has gotten right behind the event.テつ And hence, why the whole thing is sold out.
I think it's going to be wonderful pictures going around the world of Royal Portrush and the whole area.テつ It's a huge boost for the area that can only be a good thing.テつ It's wonderful to see a major tournament back here again at one of the best courses that we've got.テつ I doubt we'll play a better course on The European Tour this year than this one, and that's the feeling amongst all the pros.

Q.テつ The tournament has done a lot for Portrush and Ireland; can you see it progressing even further in the future?
DARREN CLARKE:テつ I can.テつ Hopefully at some stage they will be looking at getting the tournament back here again.テつ I think that's a huge step and I think it would be a tough thing not to bring it back here after the response we've had this week.
We've got a another golf course under development two miles up the road Bushmills Dunes, and it's been in planning for 12 years and there's a 100million quid project and the National Trust have jumped in and blocked it again after everybody else had passed it.テつ They have got a huge backing from Northern Ireland, $9 nine million quid and they using that to block the new course, which can only enhance the whole area, as well.
So hopefully that will be resolved.テつ It would be another thing for this area, not just Portrush, but all of Northern Ireland to go along with some of the other great courses we have, as well.テつ Hopefully some stage they will come to their senses and let the course be built.
But the whole area would benefit so much.テつ As I said, hopefully they will come to their senses and do it.テつ But in general terms, not just this area, but all of Northern Ireland, I think all of the posters, everything you see has see our faces and it's been massive for us.
Certainly I'm very proud to live in Portrush and you've got a Alan Simpson who has worked hard for Portrush, he's BBC Northern Ireland, one of our biggest commentators and he lives here as, well.テつ Everything about Portrush, all of the locals are so, so proud of us.テつ

Q.テつ Just expand a bit on how moving back here helped you to win The Open; I presume it's not just playing links golf but also peace of mind?
DARREN CLARKE:テつ Yeah, it really is a wonderful place to live.テつ May not have the best temperature in the world and best weather in the world but the people are very, very friendly.テつ It's a very normal, down‑to‑earth place to live.テつ You know, when I go out and people I don't know, if I'm not playing so well, come on down, do a little bit better.テつ If I play well, I say well done and carry on.
We are very, very proud of our sports men and women in Northern Ireland.テつ This is a huge part of it.テつ Golf has been good to Northern Ireland, especially with the success we just had; and indeed, Alan Dunbar winning the Amateur Championship last week, what is it with us up here?
We have one of the best courses in the world to practise and play on, and if you can play on one of the best on top, then you can go and play anywhere and I think that's been shown of late with the results of the Irish golfers.

Q.テつ Was going to ask you about Alan.テつ He obviously came through your foundation, what was that like watching him?テつ Were you in touch with him?
DARREN CLARKE:テつ I didn't see it.テつ I was away all weekend.テつ I was away with TaylorMade and so I didn't see it.テつ But I was keeping a close eye to see what he was doing.テつ He's a wonderful young man.テつ He's dedicated.テつ He works hard.テつ You know, I'm here an awful lot, but there's a guy in the pro shop tells me he practises nearly every day and he's here as much as I am.テつ He's got his mind switched on to exactly what he wants to do and he's working and working and working, and he's going to be another great ambassador for Northern Ireland.

Q.テつ Was that your boy you're playing with today?
DARREN CLARKE:テつ Tyrone, yes.

Q.テつ How often do you just come down, bring him down the hill and play?
DARREN CLARKE:テつ I bring Conor and Sunday afternoon is usually pretty quiet here.テつ So the three of us will wander around and play nine holes.テつ We do play a lot together.

Q.テつ You spoke a couple of months ago about how frustrating you were getting, the hard work and no results; are you still frustrated or are you taking a more relaxed approach?
DARREN CLARKE:テつ Well, I've had four weeks off, not really through choice obviously.テつ But I've had a nice break away, which is probably the first break I've had since last July and it's done me good.テつ I'm keen and I want to get back out there and been working pretty hard.テつテつ It was more from trying too hard than anything else and hopefully get out there and this week will be good.

Q.テつ Up from New Zealand, to find try to out, six majors and five years, what's the secret?テつ And from a tourism point of view, obviously with the guys's success, Ireland as a golf tourism destination is right up here; what would you say to national visitors, why should they come and play in Ireland?
DARREN CLARKE:テつ They should come and play in Ireland because we have the best courses in the world.テつ We have an awful lot of the best courses in the world.テつ To me we have great opportunities in courses, not just up here, but all over Ireland.テつ We have some of the best links in the world.テつ Links is the original form; if I had a choice that's what I would play.
I think more than anything, for tourists to come here, not just to Northern Ireland, but all of Ireland, it's a very welcoming place.テつ The Irish are friendly people and welcoming people.テつ You'd go a long way around the world to find people better than the Irish.テつ So that's probably one of the reasons why they should come.
In terms of why we have won so many tournaments of late, we just have a good system going here.テつ We have great courses to practise and play on, and if you have facility, that can only make you better, and fortunately that's what we've got here.テつ We've got so many great courses in Northern Ireland that we have the opportunity to practise and get better; not just Northern Ireland, but of late, that's what the results have been coming from.テつ We had Pテδ。draig win three majors in a very short space of time, and he's been practising and he has got some fantastic courses in his area as well.テつ But all of Ireland in general, we are very lucky that we do have fantastic golf courses.

Q.テつ Inaudible.
DARREN CLARKE:テつ I think the biggest one, as I said, is The Open.テつ I don't think any tournament is higher than that, but The Open is the biggest and best tournament in the world; obviously I won last year, so I have to say that.テつ But it is the biggest and best tournament vent in the world.テつ And for guys to come along here and say, looking around, everything about it, it feels like an Open Championship, is about as big of praise as anybody can give it.

Q.テつ Inaudible.
DARREN CLARKE:テつ No.テつ Chubby has given a little financial incentive if he makes birdies and pars and what‑have‑you.テつ No, it will be fine.テつ We are playing with Shane Filan, the lead singer from Westlife, who has been a friend for a long time, and Dad and Tyrone, and Conor is going to semi‑caddie, but will be a very proud moment on the first tee.テつ It will be very good.テつ Conor didn't get a note because he's off 22.テつ Tyrone is 12, something like that.テつ I don't give him a chance to beat me just yet.

Q.テつ Just wanted to ask about the changes you've made, keeping the two holes around the turn as par 5s, and also the changes you've made to 17?
DARREN CLARKE:テつ Firstly it's not me that's made all the changes.テつ I had nothing to do with the new tees and all that sort of stuff.テつ That was nothing to do with me.テつ That was Royal Portrush.
Secondly I drove around the golf course with Miguel Vidaor, who is the Tournament Director this week, and I pointed out things to him about where the guys would try and maybe take short cuts and try and cut corners.テつ Showed him where some of the really difficult pins are so they can hide the flags away a little bit.テつ But he is probably our best Tournament Director, so all he needed was a little bit of a look around the course, a little bit of the advice I gave him, and he took everything in.
But he has got the golf course‑‑ he's going to set the golf course up in relation to what the weather is going to be like the next few days, which is going to be wind coming from different direction for the next four days, every day is going to be different.
We are going to have quite a bit of rain tomorrow and then not too much the next three days but then very windy on Friday.テつ So he will use, I'm sure, his expertise to set up the course for a very fair test.テつ All I did was try to point him in the right direction and the rest was down to him.
17, off that new back tee, depends where the wind is coming from, obviously, as every hole goes on a links.テつ What is it, 600‑odd yards now?テつ If the wind blows into off the left, it's a nightmare, because there's a bunker a bit nearly there on the right‑hand side; and if the wind picks up it's going to be a really, really tough hole.

Q.テつ Going back to Sandwich last year, was there a shot or moment during that championship win where you said, you know, I wouldn't have been able to win without what you've learned around here?テつ Was there any particular moment?
DARREN CLARKE:テつ Probably all of it to be honest.テつ It wasn't just any particular moment.テつ I grew up playing a lot of my golf around this golf course here.テつ My dad used to bring me up from when I was 11 years old.テつ We would come up on a Friday afternoon after four o'clock for the cheap green fees and just come up and play and go back down home to Dungannon again.
So there's no particular shot that‑‑ well, it was the fact that I was back living here again, playing and practising on the golf course on a daily basis.テつ I enjoyed my time when I was in London, but I didn't have the facilities to go and play and practise on a links golf course, obviously.テつ I think the whole key to my success I feel was living back here and playing and practising on a links course.テつ It can't be replicated any other way.

Q. テつHow much were the green fees?
DARREN CLARKE:テつ I can't remember.テつ It was always reduced after four o'clock on a Friday.
NEIL AHERN:テつ Thank you very much, Darren, and thank you very much for all your help in the buildup to this tournament.テつ Play well this week.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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