Darren Clarke reflects
BY Bruce Young | European PGA Tour | 2012 The Open Championship | Preview | 18 Jul 2012
Defending champion Darren Clarke has returned the Claret Jug to the R&A after twelve months of having it in his keep. In a press conference earlier this week he discussed his thoughts about being the Open Champion, his current game and the Royal Lytham & St Annes layout and set-up.
“I didn’t really want to give it back, obviously,” he said when asked about handing the trophy back. "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.
“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.”
Since the victory at Royal St Georges Clarke’s game has slipped considerably. In 14 starts in 2012 he has yet to record a top ten anywhere and he now sits in 84th position in the world rankings.
“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.”
Clarke was asked as to how difficult it has been to continue on chasing goals after reaching such a pinnacle.
“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.”
And what of the layout this year and the huge number of bunkers scattered throughout the course?
“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.”
The rough has become quite a talking point also this year and Clarke is aware of its dangers
“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.
Discuss this article in our forums