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An Interview With: Darren Clarke

DARREN CLARKE: Very pleased to get off to such a good start. I didn't think for the first round practicing Sunday I would be able to shoot 65 on Thursday.

We got fortunate with the conditions this morning; the greens were holding, we were able to fire at flags that we were not able to do earlier in the week. I rolled the ball well on the greens, so all in all, I'm very pleased with 65.

JULIUS MASON: Let's talk about your birdies and bogeys quickly, please.

DARREN CLARKE: 1st, I hit driver, lob-wedge to 12 feet, holed it.

The 2nd, I hit driver, 3-iron just off the right edge of the green and putted it up to three feet and holed it for birdie.

The 3rd, I had 8-iron to about 18 feet and holed it for birdie.

The 4th, I hit driver, 9-iron to about 12 feet, holed it for birdie.

7, I had 4-iron to about 20 feet and holed it for birdie.

8, I hit driver, 5-iron to about 15, 18 feet and holed it for birdie.

9, I hit a good drive, pulled a 6-iron left into the bunker and was standing out of the bunker at about six inches above the ball, could not quite get at it, hit it too hard through the green, chipped it back two feet, holed it for bogey.

10, I hit driver, sand wedge to about ten feet and holed it for birdie.

11, I hit driver, 3-wood up the edge of the green, rolled back down, putted from off the green to about six feet and holed it for birdie.

No. 13, hit a very good tee shot to the middle of the fairway, pulled an 8-iron and plugged in the bunker and had to -- knocked it sideways to the front part of the green. I could not go at the flag.

14, I hit 3-iron, pitching wedge to probably about five feet and holed for birdie.

Q. I just got off the phone with Stan Utley, who is bouncing around right now based on how well you did. Can you just talk about what you guys worked on Sunday night and Tuesday, and also, he said putting was the initial request but that you made some major changes in the chipping.

DARREN CLARKE: Yes. I initially wanted to see Stan to try and hole some more putts. We worked very hard on that and we worked very hard on my overall short game, as well, bunker play and chipping around the greens, as well, because I haven't been as consistent this year as I would have liked to have been. He's changed my action quite a lot, hitting it more from the inside, which I haven't been doing before today. I didn't miss that many greens, so I only used one part of it most of the day, the putting part, which as you can see it worked out pretty well.

Q. So that helped?

DARREN CLARKE: Yes, it definitely helped. Stan definitely helped. Still working on the same things that I've always been doing with Butch on my main swing, but Stan pointed out a few other things within the short game and what-have-you, so he's been a big help. So hopefully I can maintain this sort of form.

Q. Jay Haas was upset that he was working with you.

DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, I've just seen Jay walking out there. It was Jay's suggestion last year at THE TOUR Championship in Houston; I was struggling a little bit there, as well. He said you should try and see Stan Utley, he's been really good, he's worked out very well for me. As you can see from Jay's putting stats, he's rolling it pretty well. Stan's been very good.

Q. Given the predictions of how difficult the scoring would be this week, how soon did you realize that kind of score was on today? Was it as soon as you pulled back the curtains this morning?

DARREN CLARKE: Whenever I tapped it in from an inch on the last green, basically.

We had the better conditions this morning. The wind was blowing a little bit but not that hard, and the wind eased for us on the back nine. But the greens were soft, and some of the pin positions were, I would not say generous, but reasonable to get at. There was still a lot of tough ones out there, but with the way the par 5s were playing, barring No. 5, there was birdie opportunities out there. So fortunately, I made the most of them.

Q. Stan; have you used him before?

DARREN CLARKE: No.

Q. And what made you go to him this time?

DARREN CLARKE: What made me go to him this time is his reputation preceded himself. I believe he's got a name for himself for a short game coach, and he's worked with quite a few of the players. Paul McGinley had been to see him earlier in the year and had suggested, also, as well as Jay Haas, that I should go and see him because his coaching method in teaching is actually similar to the way I swing the golf club. That's why I decided to contact him and see him. He's been very beneficial. I'm thankful that he had the time to come and spend with me.

Q. Can you elaborate or give us a simple thought he gave you for the putting?

DARREN CLARKE: No (laughing).

I don't know, my address position, my hands are a little bit further forward than they have been for some time. He's trying to get me to hit the putter on more of an arc basically. It's a little bit more complicated than that, but that's as easy as I can put it.

Q. Your threesome went off like a rocket. Can you talk about what it was like feeding off of each other?

DARREN CLARKE: I birdied the first four and K.J. birdied the first five, and Justin got on a serious roll on the back nine. There was good shots and hitting at flags all over the place. When your playing partners are playing that well, it's very easy to keep on concentrating on your own game, and they hit a good shot in, you want to hit a good shot in. I think it was very beneficial to all of us that we all played well.

Q. As much as Stan has helped you out, obviously, your caddie seems to get very involved in reading the putts. Can you discuss that relationship?

DARREN CLARKE: My caddie, Billy Foster, it's our first week back again after a year apart. Billy worked for me for seven years before, and after some wisdom, I thought I should try some other people. It has been fantastic to have Billy back again. Billy is a very decent player himself, and sometimes I struggle to read greens, and he read putts for me before when we worked together before, so he's done a good job again today.

Q. What are your thoughts on No. 18, and do you think the hole fits in well with the rest of the course?

DARREN CLARKE: No. 18 was a lot easier today than it has been in practice. It was downwind and off the forward tee, so that made it a lot easier. Some of the shots we've had to hit, hitting driver off the tee and then going in with 2-irons and stuff is a very tough green to try to get at. But it's going to be a very exciting finishing hole come Sunday.

Q. Do you still think that there are a few par 6s out there, and are we going to see this course show its teeth over the next 54?

DARREN CLARKE: I think so. I think if the wind keeps blowing, the greens firm up, then we are going to see a real challenge; not that it's not now, but if the wind keeps blowing, the greens dry out, then I think there won't be that many low scores this week.

JULIUS MASON: Darren Clarke, thank you.

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