Clarke returns claret jug dinged but Guinness free

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LYTHAM ST. ANNES – For a man who hoisted a Guinness just minutes after winning last year’s Open Championship, it’s difficult to believe Darren Clarke’s recent claim.

But the defending champion remains steadfast in his stance: He never once drank out of the claret jug.

“No, I didn't at any stage put any fluid in it at all,” Clarke said Monday in advance of this year’s edition of the tournament at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. “Nothing. It just is too special a trophy. I have so much respect for the Open Championship and I couldn't get myself to do it. I thought about it a few times, but I couldn't get myself to do it.”

As part of the one-year anniversary of his victory, Clarke ceremonially handed the trophy back to R&A officials – though not without a little damage.

“It's not quite in as good a condition as I received it in,” he said with a laugh. “It's been here, there and everywhere. But Mr. [Peter] Dawson looked at it and said, ‘Oh, we can fix that; we can fix this.’ So it's not too bad.”

Clarke claimed that bringing it “here, there and everywhere” was part of the charm of being champion over the past year.

“It was wonderful bringing it to all sorts of different countries,” he said. “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.”

He is allowed – like all Open champions – to keep a replica of the claret jug. And yes, rest assured the duplicate received different treatment than the original.

“I was tempted [to drink out of the original] on the Sunday evening and the Monday evening and the Tuesday evening and the Wednesday evening and for about two weeks afterwards,” he admitted. “I never managed to put anything into it. … I put it into my replica, instead.”