So much has changed, yet Clarke tries to remain the same

By Associated PressAugust 9, 2011, 5:54 pm

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Darren Clarke struggled through a miserable nine holes of practice Tuesday.

Hmmm, maybe he’s ready to shine again at the PGA Championship.

Coming off the first major title of his career, Clarke arrived in the sweltering suburbs north of Atlanta looking to rekindle some of that British Open magic but insisting he’s still the same guy – claret jug and all.

“I would like to think it hasn’t changed me,” the native of Northern Ireland said. “Hope it won’t and don’t think it will.”

His schedule has certainly changed, though. After an all-night celebration at Royal St. George’s, he’s had to deal with a rush of media and sponsor commitments, in addition playing the Irish Open and the World Golf Championship event at Firestone.

“All I will say is that I’m still a little bit tired,” said the 42-year-old Clarke, one of golf’s oldest first-time major champions. “I’ve had no time off since the Open, so I’ll be looking forward to a couple of weeks off this week.”

Clearly, he could use the rest. Clarke missed the cut in Ireland and tied for 68th in a 76-player field at Firestone, so he hardly looks on top of his game.

Then again, he struggled through nine holes of practice two days before the start of the British Open, and that turned out just fine.

“I shall be spending quite a bit of time on the range trying to figure it out a little bit,” Clarke said, adding that his expectations “are exactly the same from what they were at the Open.”

This is nothing like Royal St. George’s, of course. Instead of temperatures in the low 60s and spurts of heavy rain, Clarke practiced Tuesday under a bright sun, the mercury climbing into the 90s, the humidity making it feel even hotter.

“Obviously, totally different conditions,” he said. “The heat is going to be a massive, massive factor this week.”

He’ll need some different shots, too.

At Royal St. George’s, Clarke mastered the links course by keeping the ball low. It wasn’t pretty, but it negated the gusting breezes off the sea. Landlocked Atlanta Athletic Club is the sort of course that turns up week after week on the PGA Tour (though longer at more than 7,400 yards). High, precision shots will be the norm at this major.

“I’ve just got to go to the range and work on my ball striking and hopefully get back to a level where I can control my ball flight,” Clarke said. “If I can do that, I’ll go and play and see how good my best is this week. If I can play my best, my best is good enough to contend and to win.”

The blistering Georgia summer could work against a player like Clarke, who’s a bit stout around the midsection. After winning the Open, he had vowed to go on a diet, but now says he will begin cutting back AFTER the PGA Championship.

“Obviously, I’m a finely turned athlete,” he quipped, “so it should not affect me that much.”

His victory at Royal St. George’s was immensely popular with the golfing public, on both sides of the Atlantic. Clarke lights up cigarettes on the course, loves to throw back a pint or two, and – like so many folks – has struggled to control his weight.

Plus, he dealt with personal tragedy: The death of his wife after a long battle with cancer. No wonder he hears shouts of encouragement nearly everywhere he goes.

“For some reason or another,” Clarke said, “the people seem to like me.”

He also learned a valuable lesson at the British Open, one that should serve him well the rest of his career.

“You never know what the game is going to give you. You never know what’s around the corner,” Clarke said. “Just never give up. Keep going, keep going, keep going. That’s what it taught me.”

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Bjorn adds four Ryder Cup veterans as vice captains

By Will GrayMay 22, 2018, 1:05 pm

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn has added a quartet of vice captains for the biennial matches this fall in Paris.

Bjorn had already named Robert Karlsson as his first assistant, and he announced Tuesday at the BMW PGA Championship that his group of advisors will also include major champions Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell, and former world No. 1s Lee Westwood and Luke Donald.

Westwood is among Europe's most decorated Ryder Cup players, and his addition in this role signals he likely won't participate as a player in the matches for the first time since 1995. The Englishman has spoken openly about his desire to captain the European squad at Whistling Straits in 2020, but he's been quiet on the course in recent months, with a missed secondary cut at the Houston Open his only start since mid-February.

Harrington is seen as another possible captain for the 2020 matches, and he'll don an earpiece for the third straight Ryder Cup, having represented Europe as a player on six straight teams from 1999-2010.

Donald played on four Ryder Cup teams from 2004-12, with the Europeans winning each time he was on the roster. This will mark his first stint as a vice captain, as Donald announced last month that he would be sidelined indefinitely while recovering from a back injury.

At age 38, McDowell will be the youngest vice captain in the room, having holed the winning putt eight years ago at Celtic Manor. He won the French Open in both 2013 and 2014 at Le Golf National, site of this year's matches, and will also be making his debut as a vice captain.

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Bidder pays $50,000 to caddie for Woods

By Grill Room TeamMay 22, 2018, 12:28 pm

Someone has paid $50,000 to caddie for Tiger Woods at this year’s Hero World Challenge.

An unnamed bidder paid for the opportunity at an auction Saturday night at Tiger Jam, where monies are raised to support the Tiger Woods Foundation.

The Hero World Challenge will be contested Nov. 29-Dec. in Albany, Bahamas. The pro-am is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 28.

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NCAA DI Women's Champ.: Scoring, TV times

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 22, 2018, 11:28 am

The NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championship is underway at Kartsen Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

After three days of stroke play, eight teams have advanced to the match-play portion of the championship. Quarterfinals and semifinals will be contested on Tuesday, with the finals being held on Wednesday. Golf Channel is airing the action live.

Wake Forest junior Jennifer Kupcho won the individual title. Click here for live action, beginning at 4 p.m. ET.


TV Times (all times ET):

11AM-conclusion: Match-play quarterfinals (Click here to watch live)
4-8PM: Match-play semifinals

4-8PM: Match-play finals

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Arizona grabs last spot with eagle putt, playoff win

By Ryan LavnerMay 22, 2018, 3:18 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – With her team freefalling in the standings, Arizona coach Laura Ianello was down to her last stroke.

The Wildcats began the final round of the NCAA Championship in third place, but they were 19 over par for the day, and outside the top-8 cut line, with only one player left on the course.

Bianca Pagdaganan had transferred from Gonzaga to compete for NCAA titles, and on the 17th hole Ianello told her that she needed to play “the best two holes of your life” to keep the dream alive.

She made par on 17, then hit a 185-yard 6-iron out of a divot to 30 feet. Not knowing where she stood on the final green, Pagdaganan felt an eerie calm over the ball. Sure enough, she buried the eagle putt, setting off a raucous celebration and sending the Wildcats into a play-five, count-four team playoff with Baylor at 33 over par.

Their match-play spot wasn’t yet secure, but Ianello still broke down in tears.

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Team scoring

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Individual scoring

“Bianca is such an inspiration for all of us,” she said. “She’s the kind of kid that you want to root for, to have good things happen to.”

Arizona prevailed on the second playoff hole. As the 8 seed, the Wildcats will play top-seeded UCLA in the quarterfinals Tuesday at Karsten Creek.

Though the finish had plenty of drama, no teams played their way into the coveted top 8 on the final day of stroke-play qualifying.

Baylor came closest. The Bears barely advanced past regionals after a mysterious stomach virus affected several players and coaches. They competed in the final round with just four healthy players.

On Monday, Gurleen Kaur put Baylor in position to advance, shooting 68, but the Bears lost by three strokes on the second extra hole.

Arkansas finished one shot shy of the team playoff. The second-ranked Razorbacks, who entered NCAAs as one of the pre-tournament favorites, having won seven times, including their first SEC title, couldn’t overcome a 308-300 start and finished 10th. Player of the Year favorite Maria Fassi finished her week at 19 over par and counted only two rounds toward the team total.