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.”’

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Koepka looking to make hay on Horrible Horseshoe

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 10:26 pm

The Horrible Horseshoe - Nos. 3, 4 and 5 at Colonial Country Club - annually ranks as one of the toughest three-hole stretches on the PGA Tour.

Consider Brooks Koepka undeterred.

Last year's U.S. Open champ has played the stretch 2 over this week but knows that if he's going to have any chance at catching Justin Rose on Sunday, he's going to need take advantage of the par-5 first and then find a way to pick up shots on the Horseshoe.

"I feel like just need to get off to a good start on this golf course," Koepka said after a third-round 67 Saturday. "If you can get 2 or 3 under through six holes, I think you'll be right there."

Koepka will start the final round four behind Rose, as he looks to win for the first time since his maiden major victory last year.

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The big-hitter missed nearly four months this year with a wrist injury and is progressing quickly in his comeback despite dislocating his wrist on two different occasions over the last two months.

Koepka missed the cut with partner Marc Turnesa at the Zurich Classic in his competitive return before following up with a tie for 42nd at the Wells Fargo Championship and a tie for 11th at The Players Championship.

Now, thanks to a closing birdie Sunday, he finds himself playing alongside Rose in the final group on Sunday.

"I feel like my game is coming around," he said. "[At Zurich], I was five days into touching clubs. I am finally finding a rhythm and feel like I'm getting really close. ...

"Just want to get off to a good start [tomorrow]. That's really all I am trying to do. You put together a good solid round tomorrow, you never know what can happen. The important thing is we were just trying to get in that final group. I thought the putt on 18 was kind of big to get in that final group and play with Rosey."

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Rose leads Koepka, Grillo by four at Colonial

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 9:06 pm

On the strength of a 4-under 66 Saturday, Justin Rose will take a four-shot lead over Brooks Koepka and Emiliano Grillo into the final round of the Fort Worth Invitational. Here's where things stand through 54 holes at Colonial Country Club.

Leaderboard: Rose (-14), Koepka (-10), Grillo (-10), Corey Conners (-8), Jon Rahm (-8), Louis Oosthuizen (-8), J.T. Poston (-8), Ryan Armour (-8)

What it means: The fifth-ranked player in the world is 18 holes from his ninth PGA Tour victory and his second this season. Up one to start the third round, Rose extended his lead to as much as five with birdies on four of his first six holes. Through 54 holes, Rose has made 17 birdies and just three bogeys. The 2013 U.S. Open winner and 2016 Olympic gold medalist has a history of winning at iconic venues - Muirfield Village, Aronimink, Cog Hill, Doral, Merion and Congressional - and now looks to add Colonial to the list. He'll be chased on Sunday by Grillo, the young Argentinian who won his first Tour start as a member in 2015, and Koepka, last year's U.S. Open winner who continues to impress in his injury comeback despite ongoing wrist issues.

Round of the day: Corey Conners and Ted Potter both turned in 7-under 63. Potter was bogey-free and Conners came home in 6-under 29 on the back nine.

Best of the rest: Jon Rahm, Louis Oosthuizen, Brian Harman and Michael Thompson all signed for 64. Rahm called his six-birdie start the best 10 holes he's played so far this year.

Biggest disappointment: Jordan Spieth has finished second-first-second in the last three years at this event, but he's yet to find his normal Colonial form through three rounds. Spieth, who said Friday he was capable of shooting "10 or 12 under" over the weekend, shot even-par 70 Saturday. He sits in T-38 at 3 under for the week, 11 back.

Shot of the day: Rory Sabbatini closed out his third round Saturday with this eagle holeout from 134 yards at the 18th.

His colorful scorecard featured three bogeys, two birdies, a double bogey and that eagle. It added up to a 1-over 71. 

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McCarron closes with only bogey, shares lead

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 8:49 pm

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Scott McCarron, seeking a second senior major title to go with his 2017 Senior Players Championship, made his only bogey of the third round on the final hole to slip into a tie for the lead Saturday with Tim Petrovic in the Senior PGA Championship.

They were at 13 under par after Petrovic, seeking his first major, shot 65. McCarron has shared the lead through three rounds.

England's Paul Broadhurst, the 2016 British Senior Open winner, matched the best third-round score in tournament history with a 64. He was at 11 under.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, coming off his first major championship last week at the Regions Tradition, shot 65 and was 9 under.

Tom Byrum, who made a hole-in-one in shooting a 67, was in a group at 8 under.

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Watch: Rose one-arms approach, makes birdie

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 26, 2018, 7:25 pm

Justin Rose appears to have taken a course in Hideki Matsuyama-ing.

Already 3 under on his round through five thanks to a birdie-birdie-birdie start, Rose played this approach from 143 yards at the par-4 sixth.

That one-armed approach set up a 6-foot birdie putt he rolled in to move to 4 under on his round and 14 under for the week, five clear of the field.