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THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP


July 16, 2012


Darren Clarke


LYTHAM ST. ANNES, ENGLAND

LYNN WALLACE:  Ladies and gentlemen, we're joined by defending Open Champion Darren Clarke.  Thanks for joining us.
DARREN CLARKE:  Thank you.
LYNN WALLACE:  You've just handed back the Claret Jug to Peter Dawson.  How did that feel.
DARREN CLARKE:  Tears in my eyes.  Didn't really want to give it back, obviously.  It's been good.  The year has gone amazingly fast.  It's been an honour and a privilege for me to represent the R&A and bring the Claret Jug all over the world, and I have done.
LYNN WALLACE:  As you said, it's traveled around with you.  How special was that and what kind of reaction did you get.
DARREN CLARKE:  It was wonderful bringing it to all sorts of different countries, been to a few countries where it had never been before.  But letting people see it, it's one of those iconic trophies that people see on television but never actually physically get to see it, but a lot of people did.  A lot of people have pictures with it, and they all enjoyed it as much as I did.

Q.  Did you expect to have tears in your eyes?  Did that suddenly hit you?
DARREN CLARKE:  I was joking.  No, it was nice to hand it back.  It's not quite in as good a condition as I received it in.  It's been here, there and everywhere.  But Mr.Dawson looked at it and said, oh, we can fix that, we can fix this.  So it's not too bad.  But no, it's been a fantastic year being Open Champion.  Obviously as I told you guys last week or whatever, it's been a much better year off the golf course than on the golf course.  But I wouldn't change anything.

Q.  Did you change your mind about having a drink out of it before you gave it back?
DARREN CLARKE:¬† No, I didn't‑‑ at any stage did I put any fluid in it at all, nothing.¬† It just is too special a trophy.¬† I have so much respect for The Open Championship, and I couldn't get myself to do it.¬† I thought about it a few times, but I couldn't get myself to do it.¬† My replica has had, on the other hand, but that one hasn't.

Q.¬† You said a couple scrapes or bumps on the jug.¬† Can you be a bit more specific?¬† Have you dropped it or did something happen‑‑
DARREN CLARKE:  No, I didn't drop it, and not in my possession.  I shall say no more.  It was nothing to do with me.  It's not that bad.  It's fine.

Q.  A couple years ago Stewart Cink came in, same day as you, and he talked about everybody drinking out of the trophy and putting barbecue sauce in it.  What was your reaction then and how do you feel about it now?
DARREN CLARKE:  As regards to what Stewart did with it?  I think everybody that's been fortunate to have their hands on the trophy have done different things with it.  All I can really comment on is my point of view of it.  I just decided that the trophy was too special for me to put anything into it.

Q.  How long before you reached that conclusion?
DARREN CLARKE:¬† I was tempted on the Sunday evening and the Monday evening and the Tuesday evening and the Wednesday evening and for about two weeks afterwards.¬† I never managed to put anything into it.¬† But I just thought, no, I can't do it.¬† It took me a while, but I just‑‑ Christmas would have been a perfect occasion for doing it, so I put it into my replica, instead.

Q.  Is that not biggest the shock of sports that Darren Clarke would have the Claret Jug and not drink out of it?
DARREN CLARKE:  I don't need to have a jug to drink out of.

Q.  Referenced it wasn't been the greatest year for you on the course.  Is that because of winning The Open Championship?
DARREN CLARKE:  I don't know if it's because of winning The Open Championship or not, but I've certainly fallen into a little bit of a trap of trying to play better, and trying too hard as opposed to just going and playing, getting into a mentality that I've got to go out and play like The Open champion, instead of just playing the way that I played up and down in the first place.  I got a little caught up and tried too hard.  Unfortunately that's the nature of our game.  You get success at the highest level, and it just creates some more.  I want to win again and I want to win bigger and better tournaments.  There is none better than The Open Championship, but I want to win the big tournaments.  I just pushed myself too hard to do that.

Q.  That's something that Graeme actually spoke about after winning the U.S. Open.  How difficult is it to sort of continue to reach that pinnacle after you've reached it?
DARREN CLARKE:  Well, obviously Graeme is a lot younger than I am.  I'm obviously a lot older.  That's something that I did struggle with for a while, you know, for me and my goals The Open Championship is the biggest and best tournament in the world, and from the day that I lifted a club and started playing, this is all I ever wanted to do was win The Open Championship.  It took me quite some time to reflect upon it and see where I wanted to go after I'd won it.  I struggled with that for quite some time, and then when I did then start practising every hour of the day, it wasn't quite clicking into place.  Maybe now that I've given the Jug back for this week, maybe I'll get back to playing the way I can play.

Q.  Following your victory last year, both you and Bob Rotella spoke about your finding joy, having fun on the greens again.  Where are you at with finding joy and having fun on the greens again?
DARREN CLARKE:  That's a very good question.  It's obviously a lot easier to have fun and a lot of joy when you're holing some putts:  It's a bit of a Catch 22.  But it hasn't really been my putting.  My whole game has been very, very average to tell you the truth.  It's an ongoing process for any guy that you ask here.  You go through spells when you putt well and spells where you don't.  Patience is obviously something I've had to have an awful lot of this past year, and maybe this week things will turn around get and I'll start knocking a few in.  But it's an ongoing process as long as you're out here on Tour.

Q.  You seem to thrive in the tough elements in Kent in the wind and the rain.  Are you one of the golfers that the not particularly daunted by the ominous forecast this week?
DARREN CLARKE:  I grew up in it.  I played a lot of links golf at home in Ireland, and we haven't always had good weather over there.  The course is going to play really tough this week.  It's quite narrow.  The rough is very, very penal, and as you said, we're forecasted some rough weather.  But that's The Open Championship, I think.  That's what we expect, and that's what we're going to get.  If conditions are tough, that doesn't particularly bother me.  That's fine.

Q.  You didn't seem totally happy with your game yesterday.  The weather is turning nasty.  Are we seeing a similar pattern to 12 months ago?
DARREN CLARKE:  I was very happy with my game yesterday.  Who were you watching?  Were you out walking around?  I didn't think you left the media tent.
No, I was fine yesterday.  I was just working on a couple of things.  No, I was very happy with what I was doing.  I was just out there hitting some balls and didn't really do anything on the greens but went out afterwards, after I played 18 holes, then went out in the afternoon and spent a lot of time on each green and hitting putts to where they've had previous Open pin positions and stuff like that, but no, I was quite happy yesterday.

Q.  205 bunkers, they're not as famous as some of St. Andrews, they don't have the famous names, but can you tell people what the bunkering is like here and how it comes into play?
DARREN CLARKE:  It's just a nightmare, because there's 205 of them and I have absolutely no idea what the tournament vibe was, to liken it to what it is.  They're very penal, they're very tough, those bunkers.  They've reverted a lot of the faces, so some of them are a little bit more penal than others.  You know there's going to be occasions here this week where I think you're going to have to see guys taking penalty drops out of them, because they won't be able to move their ball anywhere.  They are a huge part of this golf course.  It's very heavily bunkered in the landing areas where we really need to hit the ball.  Accuracy is going to be the key this week.  It's not really length off the key, it's keeping it on the fairways, and keeping it out of those bunkers.  You know, there's a few holes out there where prudence may come into play, and if you've got 220 left to the green for your second shot, it's better than having to chip it out sideways or backwards out of the bunkers.  They are very, very strategically placed, so you've got to be careful with them.

Q.  And with this rain, does it change the exposure of the bunkers?
DARREN CLARKE:¬† Yeah, they've had a lot of rain here in recent times, and the bunkers were quite damp on Saturday.¬† When they get damp it's very tough to spin the ball out of the bunkers, especially the green side ones.¬† But we're going to have showers, so the course has changed quite a lot since‑‑ even since Saturday.¬† The fairways are starting to firm up, and it's gotten a little bit faster.¬† I don't think the shower is going to make that much of a difference.

Q.  Talking about links courses as you just were, I'm sure you've been asked a lot of times why Northern Irish golfers have done to well, and you've talked about English courses.  How much has, in the shaping of Northern Irish golfers, links courses played a part, and secondly, how many times do you think you played Royal Portrush growing up?  Are we talking hundreds or thousands?
DARREN CLARKE:  Thousands.

Q.  You also have played Portstewart?
DARREN CLARKE:  Yeah, Portstewart, Castle Rock, Royal Lytham, Donegal, all the links courses.

Q.  Why are there so many good links courses in Northern Ireland?
DARREN CLARKE:¬† We're very fortunate that we have so many really, really good golf courses there at home, and links to me is the truest form of the game.¬† If you can learn to play on links, you can play on anything.¬† It's a bit more difficult if you grew up playing on an in‑line golf course where you have got to hit the ball in the air all the time to carry a certain yardage, which is more the typical sort of course in America, not all of them but the typical one, whereas when you grew up on links and you've got to learn to adjust your ball throat and control it a bit better.¬† I think it's a skill that's possibly not that easy learned, but if you grew up doing it, then it obviously makes it a little easier.¬† It's much easier to go from playing a links to a golf course which dictates you've got to hit it through the air and then going the other way, and then going from one where you're used to hitting it through the air then you've got to knock the ball down.¬† There's a big difference in the two, and I think that would I obviously go a long way to explain why we've had a lot of success from home up there.

Q.  You've handed the Jug back now, but do you have a place in the locker room or are you just one of 157 now?
DARREN CLARKE:  No, I'm in the champions' area of the locker room, which is very nice.  But last year at Royal St. George's, I got my locker, and I was beside Mr.Watson and a few of the other guys.  I couldn't quite figure out, why am I in this locker, and it was true to the late withdrawal of Greg Norman that Mr.Dawson decided, well, who ask we put in there that won't offend anybody, that won't do anything, so they stuck me in the champions' area of the locker room last year, and this year I'm back in the same area, the champions' area, but having won it, I've earned my place in that part of the locker room this time.

Q.  How tough is the rough?  Tiger said in patches it's almost unplayable?
DARREN CLARKE:¬† It is.¬† There's a few patches out there where it's just absolutely brutal.¬† The grass is quite thick.¬† It's not quite what we would expect in links.¬† The grass is going different ways and it's quite thicker.¬† It's a little bit thicker than what you normally find on a links golf courses.¬† It's really, really tough.¬† If you start spraying the ball around this week, you might as well go home.¬† There's no chance coming out of this rough at all.¬† Some of the longer par‑4s are going to play into the wind.¬† Obviously you start missing the fairways there you're really going to struggle.¬† So it's a big challenge.¬† There's a really huge premium on accuracy this week.

Q.  Can you envisage balls actually being lost in there?
DARREN CLARKE:  There's a few places, yes, even with spotters and everything.  Even if they do find the balls in some of those areas, I don't know if you'll be able to take a full swing and move it.  It is really thick, so there could be some lost balls in there.

Q.  I wonder if you could talk about being on the right side of the draw in this championship, and what's the worst draw you've received?
DARREN CLARKE:¬† Being on the right side of the draw always plays a part in the Open Championship.¬† You get good sides, bad sides.¬† Last year I got the good side of the draw, and that obviously helped me.¬† But if you do get on the wrong side‑‑ I had one where I was playing nicely at Muirfield a few years ago and that storm that come in on Saturday afternoon, I was on the first tee when that storm rolled in. Then Tiger Woods, a group behind me or two, that was a tough one.¬† But you get good ones and bad ones.¬† That's part of the Open Championship.¬† As you guys know, the scoring can differ massively because of those weather conditions.¬† But that's part and parcel of the Open Championship.¬† Thankfully I got a good one last year, and things went my way.

Q.  How do you feel about your Ryder Cup teammate Paul Casey who really seems to be struggling coming into an event like this?
DARREN CLARKE:  I played with Paul a couple of weeks ago in past, and he actually wasn't hitting the ball that bad at all.  He just hit a couple off line and paid the penalty.  But such is golf.  That's the way it is, and it's very fickle.  But Paul is a world class golfer.  That's obvious.  It's only a case of patience and just keep doing what he's doing, and he'll go back to playing his best golf.  That's what it is.  He hasn't lost time doing that, he's just having a tough spell.  Some of us have tough spells.  That's just our game.  It's the strong ones that battle to come out the other side, and Paul is definitely one of those.

Q.  Every golfer doesn't win major championships and there's scars left, and then you come along and win one.  Do the highs of winning, are they that much better than the lows of losing a major?
DARREN CLARKE:  The lows of losing, you've got to learn to lose before you can win.  The lows of losing put you in a position where you can appreciate the joys of winning, and that was certainly my case.  I had been in contention a few times.  I had strived for it my whole career, and I managed to get over the line in the end.  Certainly I did enjoy it last year.  It was obviously one of the highlights of my career thus far, and I would love to get myself back in the same position.  But losing is part of golf, unless you're Tiger Woods and you win his percentage of tournaments, but there's not many of us that do that.  But it's part and parcel of the game.  You've got to lose and then enjoy the win, which I did.
LYNN WALLACE:  Thanks very much.  Good luck this week.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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