Team Europe > News

An interview with Darren Clarke

Darren Clarke sat down with the press and the PGA on Tuesday.

PGA.com
September 14, 2004

JULIUS MASON: Good Tuesday morning, ladies and gentlemen. Darren Clarke from the European team joining us. Darren, some opening thoughts and we'll go to Q&A, please.

DARREN CLARKE: It's very early in the morning. I've been awake since 5:00 this morning. The team is jet lagged and we are all ready to get out here and go and play. I did play the U.S. Open here in 1995, but I have vague recollections about the course, possibly the fact that I was only here a couple of days I think. So I'm looking forward to getting back out there again.

Q. How is your wrist?

DARREN CLARKE: My wrist is fine, thank you.

Q. Completely fine?

DARREN CLARKE: Completely fine. No excuses.

Q. No tweaks?

DARREN CLARKE: No, no nothing.

Q. How is the team gelling? Anything that sort of sticks out in the last 24 hours or so?

DARREN CLARKE: No, we had a brief meeting last night and early dinner and most of us off to bed. We'll have a games room in there as well with the pool table and darts and ping pong table and bits and pieces so a lot of us were up there last night. So the team is very good, very good.

Q. What's Monty going to mean to this team since a lot of the old war horses are no longer around and he has sort of become the focal point of the team and do you acknowledge that and do the other players acknowledge that he's sort of got the scar tissues from having been through the battle?

DARREN CLARKE: Well, I think Monty's record speaks for himself. He's a veteran. I believe this is number seven or eight -- seven. He's been there, he's done it. I think especially the last time at The Belfry, he raised his game and played unbelievable golf. I think a lot of us are looking to him to do the same again. He knows what to expect come Friday morning as do a few of us, but certainly his experience will hopefully prove invaluable to the team.

Q. As far as team unity and that being such a strength for Europe, I remember last time Sam Torrance made a comment about how you may have one Tiger but we have 12 lions. Can you speak to what it is that the European Team seems to muster up and specifically why you think you guys have been so successful?

DARREN CLARKE: I don't know why it is. I think possibly on the PGA TOUR the guys tend to travel independently whereas in Europe we travel more together in groups. We tend to dine with each other every week and play practice rounds with each other every week. Because of that, I think we just know each other possibly a little bit better than what most of the American guys do. But it's always because we are the perennial underdogs that it's always easy for us to pull together and get rid of that over the week and we've been able to do that three of the last four times.

Q. Is it as much a European Team banding together or is there also a sense of pride in your specific country, for example, for you, for Ireland or Thomas for France or Langer for Germany?

DARREN CLARKE: No, I think it's more just Europe. I think we all pull together as a team. We have guys that play both on the PGA TOUR and the European Tour, so whenever we get together we are all pulling for one of us, doesn't matter where we are from. We are just pulling for the guy to make the four footer and hopefully coming down the stretch on Sunday, it would not be quite the same against him, but we all want to help each other as much as we possibly can and that's what we've done past few times.

Q. How are you guys preparing, if at all, for what the crowd is going to bring for this thing, it's rare circumstances where people are actually openly pulling against you and are you the kind of guy that that could perhaps motivate or do other teammates feel similar?

DARREN CLARKE: Well, it goes with home territory. Whenever we play in Europe we get more support and when we play over here the Americans obviously get more support. But that's part of the Ryder Cup. That's what goes with the territory. You know, sometimes that does inspire guys to play a little bit better. Hopefully the last time at The Belfry, the crowd seemed, we felt, were very fair, and that's all we can ask again. Of course there's going to be more support for the home team. That's to be expected. As long as it's fair and it's going to be another great event.

Q. What's the secret to surviving the week, what's the secret to making it a success and I'm not talking necessarily solely about the end of the week. If one of the rookies came to you and said what's the thing about the week, what would you say?

DARREN CLARKE: Get to the toilet before you play on the first day. (Laughter.) It's totally different, we all want to play well, we all want to perform for our team members and ourselves, but as much preparation as we're going to put into, there's nothing quite like Friday morning. I presume a lot of you were there last time on Friday morning at The Belfry and the atmosphere, it's always the same, you could cut it 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. As I said, it's very nerve-wracking on that first tee for everybody, all of the players, with no exemptions 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.

Q. This is your fourth different captain playing for, how does Bernhard's approach differ from Monty's or Seve or Sam?

DARREN CLARKE: I'll probably give you a better idea of that on Sunday evening because we haven't spent that much time together. But knowing Bernhard as I do, maybe not quite so well as maybe, say, Monty, but his planning and his thoughts so far have been meticulous, to say the least, but that is Bernhard.

Q. Has Bernhard spoken to you about pairings in the first couple of days yet and do you have any preference if he did or from past Ryder Cups?

DARREN CLARKE: No, he has not spoken to us about any pairings. Today we are just going out to play. I've seen the golf course and there was no specific way that he's put us out. For example today it's myself Paul Casey and David Howell playing this morning and it's because we are all doing our press things this morning. He just put us out, his plans, he probably already has them, but at the moment he's keeping them to himself and we'll find out a little more tomorrow. But I'm pleased to play with anybody. It doesn't bother me who I play with.

Q. Were there any words of wisdom from Bernhard last night and can you just give us your most amusing first tee experience in the Ryder Cup?

DARREN CLARKE: Any words of wisdom from Bernhard last night, no. We had a good blend of guys that have been here before and we have five rookies on the team. You know, last night we were delayed getting in from London, so we didn't have much time by the time we got to the hotel and getting some food and getting to bed. So our meeting last night was short. Bernhard did give us wonderful presents as I'm sure he'll tell you later on. It was very special. What was the second question?

Q. The first tee.

DARREN CLARKE: First tee, well, I think whenever Lee was going to the first tee at Valderrama, whenever Seve was captain, he 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, but that was one of them. And the other one, probably with myself playing with Monty on Saturday morning, my first tee 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.

Q. You've been a member of two winning European teams, how special were those moments in your career as opposed to an individual tournament victory?

DARREN CLARKE: They are very special. As I've touched on, the bond we get with the fellow players this week is like nothing else, because week-in and week-out you're trying to beat the same guys you are now pulling for. To have guys come down, Paul McGinley holing the putt at The Belfry the last time, Monty against Scott Hoch at Valderrama, you know, being a part of that team is something that we don't experience. So whenever you do experience it and we are part of the winning team it's very, very special. Brookline from the European point of view was obviously very disappointing because we had a huge lead going into the last day, but our record the past few times has been pretty good. So I think we're all looking forward to trying to reproduce some of that for them again.

Q. Looking ahead a little bit here, the next Ryder Cup will be at the K Club in 2006, do you think it's imperative that that captain be an Irishman or what qualities do you think that particular captain should have?

DARREN CLARKE: That has all been pretty well discussed especially in Europe so far. I was of the initial opinion that it should be an Irish captain. Now I think there hopefully will be somebody Irish within, possible if not captain, vice captain ranks, but I think we as a team in Europe need the best captain that we can have there to give us the best chance of winning, so whomever that may be, I'm sure they will do a great job.

Q. An example please of Bernhard's meticulousness and what were these wonderful presents?

DARREN CLARKE: He gave us all a very nice Rolex Submariner engraved with the Ryder Cup logo on the back of it which was very nice. His meticulous planning, he's kept a lot to himself, but I know he's taking notes, he's got his plans all laid out.

Q. Did you make the meeting last night?

DARREN CLARKE: I did make the meeting on time last night. I put my watch five minutes forward so I'm not late anymore.

Q. What kind of gift did you give Bernhard?

DARREN CLARKE: I haven't given him one yet. Hopefully a few points, that might keep him happy.

Q. I wanted to ask you about all of the players from Phillip to Paul and so many great moments for your island, I suppose, has that become a point of pride for the Ryder Cup?

DARREN CLARKE: I think it probably is a point of pride. If you take a look at the guys that have done well, Paul McGinley, Phillip Walton, Eamon Darcy holing out at Muirfield Village, Christy O'Connor; it just seems to keep coming down to the Irish guys. It's a great little piece of history to be part of and proud of. I think if you asked Paul this week if he wants to be in the same position again this week he will say yes.

Q. Aren't you overdo for that?

DARREN CLARKE: Aren't I overdo? Depends where he puts me out on Sunday. We'll see.

Q. It seems like a common perception that the Ryder Cup just means a bit more to the European Team. Do you think that there's truth to that and why would that be true?

DARREN CLARKE: Well, the PGA TOUR is a very lucrative, successful tour. The rewards over here are huge. In Europe, we have made huge leaps and bounds in the past maybe six, seven, eight years, where prize funds are going up and courses are getting better. For us, the extra interest that we generate through winning the Ryder Cup because I believe it's the second biggest sporting event in the world now behind the World Cup soccer final, that extra coverage and interest means a lot to the European Tour so it helps us grow and helps us get bigger. So from that point of view I think it's more important for us as Europeans to win it in terms of the European Tour than the PGA TOUR. Not that the guys don't want to win it over here, but it certainly helps the European Tour a little bit more.

Q. Colin has been heckled a lot when he's played in U.S. Opens here and he's gone through a lot personally this year, can you talk about having his influence and having his output and having a guy with his experience?

DARREN CLARKE: Well, I think after everything he's been through in the past and especially this year, I think he'll be even more prepared to take whatever he can out of this week. He's been there and he has done it and he has come through the other side of a lot of people having a go at him, as it were, on the golf course. That makes him a stronger and better person for that. He reacts sometimes maybe a little bit too much, but that's just the way he is, he plays with his heart. He's going to do that again this week.

Q. If you've been asked this already, I apologize because I came in in the middle. But both teams have a bunch of first-time players. How do you think, if in any way that's going to change the nature of the competition?

DARREN CLARKE: I don't think that's really going to change it an awful lot. Maybe in the past you would have looked towards Europe that first-time players would not have had that much experience of playing over here. But if you take a look at our first-time players you've got guys like Paul Casey, Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, David Howell, who is the other first timer?

Q. Thomas Levet.

DARREN CLARKE: Thomas Levet. All of those guys have played on the PGA TOUR. They are all very huge in playing over here and know what it's all about and that was not the case in years gone by. So because of that, I think that's why we, as Europeans, we feel very strongly about our team this week, so our experience with playing over here was not all that easy to come by, whereas now with our team they have all done it so far.

Q. Back in the day you thought of golf being in the United States and Great Britain. Now we are seeing golfers from Germany and Sweden, all over Europe. Why do you think the growth has been so big in Europe? What's going on there?

DARREN CLARKE: Because you have the likes of Bernhard Langer from Germany. You have the likes of Seve from Spain and also different places around Europe, we've had world-class golfers coming out of countries that were not necessarily identified with golf. And because of that, they are sporting heroes and whatever country they are from, they are going to have people taking up the game. That's why you see such a huge boom in golf in Europe.

Q. With your new diet and fitness routine, what kind of things have you given up? What's the hardest thing to do? What do you miss?

DARREN CLARKE: Beer.

Q. Maybe you can expand on that. But being more fit does that help you this week in any way?

DARREN CLARKE: I would hope it would help me this week, but I have been sticking to the regime at the events I've been to and the reason I've done it is to get myself in better shape so at the end of the tournament I won't make so many mistakes. This week is a very demanding week both mentally and physically if you're playing two games a day. If Bernhard decides to play me twice during one of the days, hopefully I'll be in better shape coming down the last few holes than I would have been the last time, so that's been the whole reason for doing it.

Q. Just on that same theme, you blew a bit of a gasket at Brookline, how much do you think that was down to a lack of fitness?

DARREN CLARKE: Well, I don't know if I blew a gasket, just Hal played better than I did. So if somebody plays better than I did it's not quite called blowing a gasket. He made a few birdies coming down the stretch. I didn't give it to him. But hopefully it will be all right this week.

Q. If it were, comparatively speaking?

DARREN CLARKE: I was rotund. (Laughter.)

Q. Is Steve Hanson here this week?

DARREN CLARKE: Absolutely not. No. I had to get away from him for a week.

Q. And what sort of jibes will you be able to throw at Monty now that he is neither no longer rotund?

DARREN CLARKE: I believe he was on a list of Britain's most eligible bachelors, so we'll have to see who is throwing around the jibes this week. (Laughter.)

Q. Could you from a European perspective describe I guess how the events of 9/11 and the World Trade Center everything affected this, because this was one of the big events that was scheduled around that time.

DARREN CLARKE: Well, that particular day we were all at St. Louis for the American Express, and obviously it was a very traumatic day for all of those involved for everything. Because of the repercussions of what happened security-wise it was understandable for all of the reasons why it had to be cancelled. I think they did the right thing in pushing it back a year. The anticipation and the excitement was still there a couple of years ago at The Belfry from it having been postponed a year, but we have moved on since then. The Ryder Cup is supposed to be a spectator spectacle and they get to see some of the best players in the world going head-to-head with each other. We don't actually get that every week but this week you can have it. We are here to provide entertainment for the fans of golf and that's what we are going to do.

Q. Can you say what your weight was then and what it is now?

DARREN CLARKE: Very heavy and not so heavy. Thank you very much. (Laughter.) FastScripts by ASAP Sports ...

JULIUS MASON: Darren Clarke, folks.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports ...

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