Happy home life behind Darren Clarke’s renaissance

By Associated PressJuly 17, 2011, 7:17 pm

SANDWICH, England – Not since 2000, when he defeated Tiger Woods in the final of the World Match Play Championship in California, has Darren Clarke looked so comfortable on the golf course.

Strolling along the undulating fairways of Royal St. George’s, puffing away on a cigarette, Clarke was a picture of contentment this week.

“We’ve been with him every night this week,” said Godfrey Clarke, the father of the new British Open champion. “He’s been calm, bubbly. Out on the course, he looked like he was out for a Sunday four-ball.”

So what’s finally turned Clarke from one of golf’s great underachievers to a major winner at age 42?

The elder Clarke credits a happy home life, following a move from London back home to Portrush, Northern Ireland, with his two kids and fiancee Alison.

“It’s left him more settled. The kids are settled, Darren’s settled. And he gets on very well with Alison, who’s a great girl,” he said. “Between the kids being happy and him being happy, it’s calmed him down. He’s happy at home.”

Clarke has finally got his life back together, five years after the death of his wife, Heather, from breast cancer.

At his best, he always had the attributes to go right to the top of the game.

The 4-and-3 victory over Woods, the then-No. 1, at La Costa was at that stage Clarke’s biggest win of his career.

“The hardest thing with Darren was that he’s been slightly labeled an underachiever. And he was,” said his manager, Chubby Chandler, speaking by the side of the 18th green moments before Clarke clinched victory Sunday. “He had the talent to win a major, an Open, but it didn’t happen. For it to happen like this is just amazing. Now he’s no longer an underachiever.

“He was last like this when he beat Tiger in 2000. He had that grin on his face all week. That was one of those weeks when he was unbelievably calm. He’s been like that again today.”

Chandler, a European Tour player-turned-agent, took on Clarke as a client in 1990.

“When he signed him, we knew we had a big one,” said Chandler, who also works with top-10 players Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Lee Westwood. “He was the first client I’d never played with. So I played golf with him the week after, at Mere in Cheshire (in northwest England). I thought to myself, ‘This is going to be great. I’ve got a business here.’

“Even if it was just me, him and my secretary for 20 years, I knew he was going to make me more money than I made as a player.”

There were a few big paychecks – the World Match Play victory earned Clarke $1 million – but never as many as there might have been. Now a major winner with an exemption to the next 20 grand slam tournaments, there could well be a belated rush.

Clarke’s return to Portrush has not only allowed him to be nearer his close friends and family. It’s also given him the opportunity to practice regularly on a links course and in links weather.

While his sister, Andrea, looks after his two boys, Clarke has been working hard on his game at Royal Portrush, the venue of the 1951 British Open.

The target has been a climb back up the rankings from his position at No. 111. And, of course, an elusive major.

“He’s been practicing hard, very hard at Royal Portrush, where the weather is similar to what it’s been here,” Godfrey Clarke said. “He’s not been getting the results. And now it’s all paid off.

“The links was always his type of golf course. Everyone wants this one, the Open. We are totally delighted after everything he’s been through.”

Both Chandler and Clarke’s father said there was never any doubt their man was going to finish the job off Sunday, despite holding just a one-shot lead against big-hitting American Dustin Johnson.

On Saturday night, Clarke and family went to Chandler’s place, where the five-time Ryder Cup player enjoyed a chicken curry, a couple of glasses of red wine and two beers.

A diet of champions.

“He was so relaxed. He’s been the same every day,” Chandler said.

Adding to Clarke’s calm this week were regular meetings with renowned sports psychologist Bob Rotella and another guru, Mike Finnigan. Rotella was chatting with Clarke on the practice putting green minutes before the Northern Irishman headed out for his final round.

“They’ve put him a bit more on an even keel,” Chandler said. “Their catch phrase has been, ‘Go out and prove everyone wrong.”’

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told GolfChannel.com that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.