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Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland waits to play a shot during the first practice day for the 35th Ryder Cup Matches at the Oakland Hills Country Club on September 14, 2004 in Bloomfield Township, Michigan. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland waits to play a shot during the first practice day for the 35th Ryder Cup Matches at the Oakland Hills Country Club on September 14, 2004 in Bloomfield Township, Michigan. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

A Test of Nerve


September 14, 2004

The start of The 35th Ryder Cup Matches may be three days away but thoughts are already turning to the Friday morning and the first tee nerves.

Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke declared that there was nothing quite like that first morning, joking that the first thing you need to do is get to the toilet before you play.

"We all want to perform for our Team and ourselves, but as much preparation as we're going to put into it, there's nothing quite like Friday morning," said Clarke. "On the opening morning at The De Vere Belfry two years ago you could cut the atmosphere with a knife. As soon as you get off the first tee it's fine. We are looking forward to it and getting out there and playing.

"It's very nerve wracking on that first tee for everybody, all of the players, with no exceptions and you want to get that moment to savor and at the same time just go and play and go and enjoy it. I think it's very difficult sometimes to enjoy it when you're under that much pressure, but I think that's one of the big keys of the week," said Clarke. But the one piece of advice for the rookies was simply: "Get to the toilet before you play on the first day."

Continuing the lighter theme, Clarke highlighted some of his own first tee experiences.

"When Lee Westwood was going to the first tee at Valderrama, Seve was captain and passed him some cotton to put in his ear so he could not hear the crowds on the first tee. Whether he put them in, I don't know. And the other one, probably with myself playing with Monty on Saturday morning, playing against Davis Love and Freddie Couples. And I was teeing the ball, teeing it up ready to hit it and I made sure I teed it up a little bit higher to just hope that I made contact with it on the way down. Unfortunately I veered a little bit too far to the left, but I managed to find it."

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