An Interview With: DARREN CLARKE
18 September 2006
SCOTT CROCKETT: Darren, thanks for coming in to join us. Great pleasure to see you back personally and I'm sure everyone feels that way. You played well in Madrid last week, give us your thoughts on the game.
DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, I hit the ball well from tee.to.green. I struggled a bit on the green, but overall, I was pretty keen with the way I played.
SCOTT CROCKETT: You said last week that you feel you are ready to take on the challenge of Ryder Cup, presumably now you're here, do you still feel that way?
DARREN CLARKE: Most definitely. I wouldn't be here unless I felt I could do it. I worked hard at home. It was good to go and play last week. Obviously I didn't quite shoot the scores I wanted to shoot, but it was good to get back into a competitive arena.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Thanks for Those opening comments. We'll take some questions for Darren.
Q. Do you feel it's important to perhaps get the emotional side of your return out of the way so that it wouldn't overshadow the events of this week?
DARREN CLARKE: Most definitely. This is a bigger week. It's one of the biggest events in the world, like no golf tournament in the world. We're here this week to compete in the Ryder Cup and try to retain the Ryder Cup, and I didn't want to come in here and answer the questions that I was asked last week, because there's nothing that should overshadow the event. There's a lot of questions that you guys wanted to ask which is normal and natural, and I was just pleased that I went and did that last week and come this week, concentrating on trying to play and help the team.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Just for your information, we do have a full transcript of Darren's interview that he gave in Madrid last week in case anybody needs it.
Q. First, may I say how great it is to see you here.
DARREN CLARKE: Thank you, Charlie.
Q. And how delighted I am to see you here. On the other hand, it's going to be a big week for you, massive week for you and you've done the right thing in coming to play in the Ryder Cup and when it comes to the first tee on Friday, do you expect it to be an emotional occasion for you?
DARREN CLARKE: Am I going to be? Do you know something I don't know, Charlie? (Laughter).
I think as I said last week there are bound to be a few difficult moments. I think when it comes to the first tee, won't be anymore difficult than it normally is because that's back to the golfing side of things and golfing side of things, that's what I do.
You know, I won't be any more nervous than I have been in my previous four Ryder Cups, and you know, the emotional side of things, yes, they will play a factor but when the golf starts, we're back in the business of playing. And hopefully I'm playing the way I want to play and help the team.
Q. Is it a case that you'll feel happier on the golf course than off the golf course?
DARREN CLARKE: I'm actually not bad in other places, Charlie, to tell you the truth. I have my moments but overall I'm very comfortable with what I'm doing. I did think long and hard about whether I should be here this week or I shouldn't be here, and I came to the conclusion that I would help the team and benefit the team if I was here this week.
So that's why I'm here, I want to play, I want to compete, and I want to help my teammates.
Q. Can I ask how nice it is to have a quarter of The European Team from Ireland?
DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, it's huge, last year seeing Graeme McDowell coming through and playing well, it almost looked like we had a chance of having four players. As it is, we have three, and for a small country in golfing terms to have three players on the Ryder Cup Team, that's a huge feat.
We've got obviously Padraig, Paul and myself and hopefully we can add to the points this week and they will stand up come the end of the week and we can be very happy we're part of a winning team.
Q. Often the case when people go back to work in situations like yours, especially in an emotional .. there are moments of emotional intensity, do you feel any way of dealing with that or how you might deal with that, the motions?
DARREN CLARKE: What I'm going to do?
DARREN CLARKE: No, no. You tell me, what other emotions are there going to be. (Laughing.)
Q. It might trigger off all of the thoughts.
DARREN CLARKE: Like?
Q. Like the way you think about other things outside of the golf course, memories might come back to you.
DARREN CLARKE: I'm here to play golf this week.
Q. There's nothing you need to do mentally to prepare?
DARREN CLARKE: I'm here to play golf and to help my teammates. Otherwise, I wouldn't be here.
Q. I apologise if you've answered this question already. Are you planning on bringing your boys over for the weekend?
DARREN CLARKE: I was thinking about bringing them over for the opening ceremony. Whether that's going to happen or not, I'm not quite sure. But if they are coming over for the weekend, they are not quite tall enough to see over everybody, so it would be a pretty tough thing for them to do. If they are here, if they are at home, I'm sure they will be watching everything on television.
Q. That's a yes and a no. Are they planning on coming over?
DARREN CLARKE: I don't know. I don't know.
Q. How big a deal has this been for Ireland to host this Ryder Cup, and can you compare it to anything else it's ever done and how desperately did you want to be a part of that?
DARREN CLARKE: I really wanted to be a part of it. I said it before and I'll say it again, I was desperate to be here. But at the same time, if I didn't think I would contribute to the team and be a benefit to the team, I would have made the decision to not be available to play. So from that point of view, I made my decision to come and play, because I think I can help the team.
In terms of how big of an event it is for Ireland, it's obviously huge. You know, we had the Special Olympics here, when was it, two years ago, three years ago, that was a huge event. And this is even bigger. You know, this is a worldwide audience with approximately one billion people watching us, and you don't get much better advertisement for Ireland for this country. And not only we've got The K Club, we have some fantastic other courses here, and it's a huge boost for golf in Ireland and indeed, all of Ireland.
Q. Can I just ask you about being a rookie in the Ryder Cup, a lot it made for every Ryder Cup about the number of rookies on each team, do you remember what it was like to being a rookie, were you treated any differently in the team room? And secondly, do we overestimate experience going into this week?
DARREN CLARKE: I don't think we can overestimate experience. It's very different from any other event that we normally play. The first time you play in the Ryder Cup, it's totally different. You know, the atmosphere, the crowds, and as you guys can see, it's getting bigger and bigger every time we play one.
I remember my first time I was very eager and keen to go at Valderrama, and unfortunately didn't get the chance to tee it up until Saturday morning. So I had one extra day to wait before I could get out there and play, which was tough enough. But it is something that you come away from at the end of the week, and, you know, it's a huge feeling to be part of that team.
Obviously winning feels an awful lot better than losing, because I've been on both sides and fortunately I've been on the winning sides more often than the losing sides. It's something you want to do in your career, especially for Europeans, and the feelings you get through it. You bond closer to the guys you're usually trying to beat every week, and those feelings of respect carry on for a long, long time.
Q. Ian was telling us he couldn't wait to give you a big hug, do you sort of embrace that sort of thing, and is it the case that perhaps because not just yourself, but a few of the players have had family tragedies that have put things in perspective, do you think this is going to be a friendlier, while still competitive Ryder Cup, but played in a better spirit?
DARREN CLARKE: I don't know, I think the last couple have been very, very good. Obviously Tiger, losing his father and Chris DiMarco, losing his mum, you know, there is more important things than trying to win this week. But in the end, we're all professionals. We all want to win for our teams. And as friendly as we are, I'm sure we're going to try to beat each other as soon as we stands on the first tee, but I'm sure that we'll be .. what's the right word, in a friendly manner, we're trying to beat each other, but at the end of the day, it's not life.and.death.
Q. As an abject to that question that David just asked, Tom Lehman was already asked about whether he think it will be a better Ryder Cup for you being in it, and he said yes. For obvious reasons, you are going to be pretty much at the centre of attention for a lot of people, there's going to be a lot of emotion surrounding you in the galleries, will that be an inspiration to you, will it make a difference to you?
DARREN CLARKE: It's nice to know I have so much support. The kind words that Tiger said recently to you guys, the support from not only Tiger, but all the guys, I've felt has been very good for me and I really, really appreciated it.
In terms of playing here this week, having that support again, it's got to be very, very good for me. A lot of people understand the position I'm in. I've had a very emotional time of late, but as soon as the bell goes in the afternoon, I'm there to play golf and I'm going to try and play as best I can and hopefully my best will be enough to earn some points for the team.
Q. Just curious on a bit of the time.line, on how much you completely shut it down after the Open and when you resumed practising?
DARREN CLARKE: After the Open we went on a family holiday to .. where did we go, we went to Greece for a day and didn't like that and ended up in Portugal for a little bit. And after that, ended up kind of sort of a bit of a rush to get back home, just had a bit of a nightmare. But we got back home and things went downhill rather rapidly. So I didn't get a chance to play an awful lot of golf nor practise, nor did I have the interest to do so. And then probably my trips to and forth the hospital, I would come home and go and hit some balls and comeback, mainly for .. to get my mind away from things. I did that a little bit.
And then when Heather passed away, I took a little bit of time, a few days and then got back into hitting balls again, because I knew that if Woosie was to offer me a pick, I would need to get myself back into decent shape again, and that's what I did. I was spending long, long hours at the golf course and working very, very hard on my game.
Q. And secondly, I don't get a sense that you played with a great amount of pressure last week at Madrid; was it more a sense of getting back to the routine?
DARREN CLARKE: Oh, no, you don't want to go out thinking you can shoot 75, and have you guys on my case! (Laughter.) Even though it's in Madrid, I wasn't going out there just to try and play and shoot a decent number. I wanted to shoot a decent score, and I did that. I played well enough to.
Q. Did you feel it last week?
DARREN CLARKE: Of course I did. Of course I did. I wanted to go out and play well. I didn't want to come back out and struggle around the golf course and.
Q. And hear it from these guys?
DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, I quite clearly didn't want to do that. I've worked very hard to get myself back onto that first tee and when I get out and play, I was there to play.
Q. How much of a help do you expect it to be this week for The European Team that the players are so familiar with the course, and particularly, for the few players like yourself who have had success on this course in the past?
DARREN CLARKE: It depends what the weather is going to be like, if it gets very wet and windy, which I believe the forecast is, we never know what the weather is always going to be like here. But to have the experience of playing in tournaments here before where you know how the course is going to play, how certain holes are going to play more difficult than what they normally would do, those conditions can only benefit the Europeans. It might not be a huge advantage but again it's a small advantage that we might need.
Q. Speaking of the course, No. 16 looks like it could be a hole that could produce a lot of drama this week, what do you like or dislike about that hole, and how do you think it could affect the proceedings?
DARREN CLARKE: I think I've hit it in the water a few times going for it in two, so it's both good and bad there. The tee is up this year, which is obviously making the green more reachable than it has been off the back tee.
Certainly 16 and 17 could be two difficult holes. They give you the opportunity, there's a lot of risk/reward there. Somebody is going to be happy and somebody is going to be not so happy. You can take it on and have a go at it, and if you make it, if you're a fraction off, you're going to pay a huge penalty. I think it's a great hole for the theatre there might be.
Q. As horrible as it's been, has it been anything that you have found that has been good that's come of it?
DARREN CLARKE: It's been good probably getting closer to my boys. I've had to look after them a bit more than what I normally have done. But that would be it. It's been a difficult thing. Heather suffered for four years basically and it was very difficult to watch that. But since she's passed away, I'm happy with my relationship with my kids and if there's any positive to come out of that, that would probably be it.
Q. The experience of previous Ryder Cups, do you prefer to know that you're playing Friday at the beginning of the week or does it not bother you, and do you recall when Bernhard told you when he was planning to play you two years ago?
DARREN CLARKE: No, I don't recall when I was told. I know I wasn't told anything in the first one, I didn't know what was going on in the first one. (Laughter).
The subsequent ones, I had a little idea of what we were going to do. As to how many times I was going to play, I didn't know. No captain has told me how many times they wanted me to play.
Q. So it helps you early in the week to prepare yourself for Friday?
DARREN CLARKE: No, not really because you want to be prepared no matter what's going on, whether you tee it up Friday morning, Friday afternoon, Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon, doesn't make any difference. You have to prepare yourself that you're going to be ready to go because the captain may have some plans that he wants to do, and a couple of guys are doing quite well in the morning and then he has to reshuffle the tees. It's difficult to tell guys that you're going to do this, you're going to do that and things have to be changed.
So he just wants to try and keep everybody, keep all of us on our toes.
Q. Your finishing position last week, was it about what you thought you might achieve?
DARREN CLARKE: No. Worse, much worse.
Q. Your expectations are that much higher?
DARREN CLARKE: For the way I was playing, yes, definitely.
Q. And totally different as well, the people that helped you in your golf career mentally, and I know there have been many (laughter) ..
DARREN CLARKE: You said that. I didn't say that.
Q. Have they helped in this process, as well, the last few months?
DARREN CLARKE: A lot of people have helped in a lot of different ways. You know, I've had a lot of support from all sorts of people from all sorts of different walks of life around the world. The people that have been close to me have been very close to me and have given me lots of words of support and wisdom some of them and some of them not so much wisdom but the majority of them have.
It's great to feel that much support from a lot of people, but all of the people that have helped me with my golf have continued to do so and probably even more. So they are all delighted I'm back doing what I'm doing and they are all wishing me well this week.
Q. The Queenwood Championship?
DARREN CLARKE: Yes, thank you. Full of top players. Only one missing was Tiger Woods.
Q. Two rounds, one day, two days?
DARREN CLARKE: Friday qualifying. Plus six, I think I shot 66, so got point one back I think on the Friday. And then it was 18 holes match play on Saturday morning, and then 18 holes match play on Saturday afternoon and then 18 holes match play on Sunday morning, and 18 holes match play on Sunday afternoon.
Bet you thought it was just 18 holes, didn't you?
Q. I did.
DARREN CLARKE: It wasn't quite that way. And I played okay.
Q. Did you lead the qualifying?
DARREN CLARKE: Net 72. No, I don't think I did. I think I was second or third.
Q. And how many in the match .. sorry, the question. Were you defending champion?
DARREN CLARKE: I was defending, yes. My name is up on the board twice now.
Q. Thank you.
DARREN CLARKE: Thank you, John.
Q. You've carved it up around here?
DARREN CLARKE: Yes, but Dr. Smurfit didn't like it and changed it all around. It is more difficult now.
Q. How much more difficult is it since you had your 60, and also, what way do you approach playing match play compared to stroke play, what are the differences?
DARREN CLARKE: I think a 60 not only would be an awfully lot more impressive than on the course I played, for the reason of length and trees growing and greens being changed and it's a much more difficult golf course now than when I shot 60. It wasn't an easy golf course when I shot 60 by any means, but it was a little bit easier now, probably two or three shots easier now then than what it is now.
As regards to match play, as opposed to stroke play, as I said last week in my press conference, match play, you can afford to have a go at a few things, take a few things on that you wouldn't normally do in stroke play if the time is right. It's knowing when the time is right and when the time is wrong.
I've got a reasonable amount of experience in match play, and personally enjoy it. I enjoy knowing that you stand on the tee and your opponent hits it in trouble, you know par is probably going to win the hole. But you've got to mix it up and you've got to measure up going from the flag whether you can hit it on the fat part of the green. It's chalk and cheese, completely different to stroke play, but I enjoy taking that on and sometimes you pay the penalty for being a little bit too aggressive and sometimes you get it right.
Q. Both the captains talk about the practise sessions and there's a great deal of importance in there, can you talk, is there a lot of pressure during the practise sessions or I would imagine for the younger players maybe, can you talk about that and how it might differ?
DARREN CLARKE: I think the pressure amongst the younger players, probably meaning the rookies that haven't played before, because they are getting to know what the whole thing is about and what it's going to be like.
The practise rounds are supposed to be a little bit more fun, sort of have a laugh and maybe have a gamble if somebody sort of likes that sort of thing, and just go out and get to see the golf course. So for me, practise is always just go and see the golf course I'm playing and come off and go and hit some balls ask that's your day's work done. The pressure starts on Friday, month. That's when it starts.
Q. Do you remember your first practise session and did you feel a lot of pressure that week?
DARREN CLARKE: My first one at Valderrama, the practise round, I don't think anybody watched me, so I can't really remember. I don't know. I can't remember.
Q. Two questions. Do you take anything out of three and four of your teammates reaching the semifinals last week at Wentworth and a couple of the Americans not doing so well on both tours?
DARREN CLARKE: Well, I think Jim and Tiger, obviously Jim having won the previous week, he's got to be a little bit tired because of that.
Tiger just had an off.day with his putter as far as I'm aware. There is not an awful lot to be made of that.
The fact that we had three or four teammates, my teammates this week making the semis was obviously fantastic and a great boost for us. Everybody was there to play and try and win and we had three of the guys, and Paul Casey has come through and it's a fantastic win for him. I'm sure he would want to improve even more from here.
Q. For those of us who were not credentialed, what is the Queenwood Championship?
DARREN CLARKE: It's the club championship amongst high.quality field. I don't know how many World Rankings were on offer, but not as many as I would have liked, and I had to play very well today.
Q. Where was it, outside London?
DARREN CLARKE: It's in London, very close to Wentworth.
Q. Have you talked to Tiger Woods in the last couple of months about Ryder Cup?
DARREN CLARKE: Not about the Ryder Cup. We've chatted about certain things, different things obviously, my personal situation. We've chatted quite a lot about, but in terms of the Ryder Cup, no, we haven't talked an awful lot.
Q. You have a great match play record against Tiger woods, how much do you fancy getting paired against him here this week?
DARREN CLARKE: Any time you get an opportunity to play with Tiger, whether it's beside him in a tournament or against him in match play can only be .. can only be helpful. If you don't learn from the best player in the world, you're not going to learn from anybody.
To play with him is great. To play against him is also fantastic. You know, I would love the opportunity to compete against him this week, win, lose or draw, and it won't .. it won't make any difference in my relationship to him. But I know he'll be trying to beat me as much as I'll be trying to beat him, and it's a great time to try to compete against him at the moment.
Q. Paul said you put him forward last time at Oakland Hills.
DARREN CLARKE: Paul said what?
Q. Paul Casey said that you actually put him forward. You volunteered him.
DARREN CLARKE: I volunteered him for what, to play Tiger? See, he just won last week. I was right all those years ago.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Everyone in this room wishes you all the very best this week.
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