We Can All Relate to Clarke

By Kraig KannApril 22, 2005, 4:00 pm
First of all, each of us who follows the professional tours for a living has some favorites. We hope not to make it obvious, and we dont usually publicize the list.
In this case, however, Im happy to tell you that Darren Clarke is one of my guys. Hes obviously a jolly good fellow and a lot of fun to be around ' even if just for a few minutes.
Darren Clarke
Darren Clarke has 13 worldwide wins to his credit.
A couple of years back, Darren decided to re-create himself in hopes of taking his game to the next level. You know ' replace the long nights in the pub with his good friend Mr. Guinness with even longer nights in the gym with Mr. Trainer.
Clarke worked harder on his body than he did anything else. I know. I saw it first-hand in a hotel gym outside Thousand Oaks, Calif., during the week of the Target World Challenge. It was December and while most players were taking the holidays off, Clarke was pouring sweat like the man behind the bar had become accustomed to pouring him fresh pints.
I watched, and we talked a bit in between crunches, medicine ball tosses, weights and cardio. His trainer worked him out harder than an infant works at a new teething ring and I found out just how much his boys Tyrone and Conor and wife Heather (whos been battling cancer) mean in the grand scheme of things.
Clarke likes The Golf Channel more than you can imagine. Fact was - he wore me out with excitement about how TGC was headed to the UK given that he couldnt get us on his current satellite system. It was great, and given that I was actually working out a bit as well, we sort of joined together in a bond toward better fitness. (I just havent gone with the plaid pants as yet.) His fitness craze actually cost him a wardrobe of some 200 shirts and 100 pants but gave him a fresh mind and a chance to visit a tailor for the new wardrobe he now sports on course.
His worldwide victories (13) and good standing in Ryder Cup play (4 teams) over the years speaks the absolute truth about his level of ability.
Yet, last weekend at Harbour Town, Clarke turned a two day total of 130 and a huge lead into a Saturday ' Sunday of 149 and a huge collapse. Watching Clarke go from 14 under to 5 under faster than the new-look Clarke could run up the famed lighthouse was unbelievable.
I asked myself where it came from. We talked about it on the 'Sprint Post Game' Sunday night. Clarke himself said he couldnt believe what hed just done.
Cmon. Weve all done it. One thing goes wrong and everything goes wrong after.
A few weeks ago I was out at Orlandos Grand Cypress Resort playing like a champ from the tips (they made me) with a few Nationwide Tour card-holding friends. I get to the par 4 ninth at 1 over with a more-than-respectable 37 in the cards. Great drive. And then I see too much of the water and lose my focus on playing smart. One visit to the lake later and its a 39, followed up by a 43 and Im left to tell my friends about just how often I can find a way to shoot 82.
Then, just a few days ago, I rush to my home course and without hitting a ball on the range I proceed to three-putt my way to back-to-back bogeys right out of the gate. Seven holes later Ive rebounded to shoot 39. OK, things are good.
Then we get held up at the turn for 30 minutes by among others a mild-mannered club employee whos skipping around and had come to the first (we started at 10) from the 15th. This makes me furious and I spend the next handful of minutes questioning the pro shops practice that morning. Double bogey, double bogey at 1 and 2 and Im in full Darren Clarke mode.
The good news, if there is any, is that I rebound for a back nine 41 and post 80.
Heres the deal. Im a registered 7 handicap whos posted rounds of 74 on more than a few occasions. But as my cohort on the 'Sprint Post Game' Brian Hewitt and I talk about ' the problem with being a 7 is that while youre good enough to go low, youre also not quite good enough to fight off the demons that take you into the 80sway into the 80s. Ive got the cards to prove it.
Funny thing was, that as things were going so Darren Clarke wrong the other day during my double-double stretch, I was honestly thinking about Clarke and what he must have felt like trying to hold on to what had gone so, so right.
Weve all been there. And while its easy to think of Clarke and say things like Wow ' hes got 13 worldwide wins and been a Ryder Cup hero? Its also what we love about this game so much.
Clarke ' while easily one of the games top 20 players ' has the ability to be just like the rest of us. Hes not always immune to the pressure. Hes not able to beat off the demons with his rescue club.
If you watched the 'Sprint Post Game' on Sunday, you know that Clarke went straight into the media center after fatting his chance to win. He faced the questions and he answered the questions with the same honest bewilderment that we all feel on the course sometimes. That was impressive.
I was a big Darren Clarke fan before Sunday at the MCI Heritage. Now, after listening to Clarke ' and living his Sunday world for myself this week, Im a huge fan.
By the way, Clarke shot 1 under Thursday at the Shell Houston Open with one birdie and NO bogeys. Not a single one.
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann
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Stricker shares first-round lead in South Dakota

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2018, 12:48 am

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Steve Stricker shot a 7-under 63 on Friday to share the first-round lead at the Sanford International.

The 51-year-old Stricker was 8 under through 17 holes at chilly, rain-softened Minnehaha Country Club but closed with a bogey to fall into a tie with Jerry Smith, Brandt Jobe and David McKenzie.

Stricker only got to play seven holes in the pro-am because of rain that prevented the field from getting in much practice.

''You've just kind of got to trust your yardage book and hit to the spots and then try to make a good game plan on the way into the green, too, not really knowing where to hit it or where to miss it up there on the green. Sometimes it's good, too,'' Stricker said. ''You go around and you're focused a lot more on hitting it to a specific spot and not knowing what lies ahead in the course. So I guess today was the ultimate 'Take one hole at a time' because we didn't really know anything else, what was coming.''

Full-field scores from the Sanford International

Stricker has two wins and has not finished worse than fifth in six starts this season on the over-50 tour as he continues to play a part-time schedule on the PGA Tour. Next week, he will be one of U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk's assistants at the matches outside Paris.

McKenzie, a 51-year-old Australian, had two eagles on the back nine, holing a wedge from 116 yards on the par-5 16th.

''We got told ... to play faster on No. 16, and so my caddie just said, 'Hit it in the hole so you don't have to putt it,' so I just did what he told me,'' McKenzie said.

Smith had eagles on Nos. 4 and 12.

''Honestly, I was just trying to hit some good shots and I really wasn't with the irons,'' Smith said. ''I just really didn't like the way I hit them today. You know, just the putter was the big difference for me. I just felt good with it all day, especially say outside of 10, 15 feet, where I felt like I was a lot.''

Scott McCarron, Lee Janzen and Paul Goydos were one shot back. McCarron came in second in the Charles Schwab Cup money standings behind Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is not playing this week.

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Glover (64) leads Web.com Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2018, 12:12 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover shot his second consecutive 7-under 64 on Friday to take a one-shot lead at the Web.com Tour Championship.

The 38-year-old Glover, who won the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, can still regain his PGA Tour card through a medical extension if he fails to earn enough money in the four-tournament Web.com Tour Finals. But a high finish this weekend at Atlantic Beach Country Club would take care of everything.

''I've got a lot to fall back on regardless of this week, but any time I tee it up, I want to play well,'' Glover said. ''Tomorrow won't be any different. Sunday won't be any different.''

Glover had arthroscopic knee surgery in June and will have eight starts to earn 53 FedEx Cup points and keep his card. He earned $17,212 in the first three Web.com Tour Finals events. The top 25 money winners in the series earn PGA Tour cards, and the final card went for $40,625 last year.

Glover was at 14-under 128. Denny McCarthy, who has already earned enough money to secure a return to the PGA Tour, was one shot back. McCarthy, a former Virginia player, has a shot at winning the Finals money list, which would guarantee him fully exempt status and entry into The Players Championship.

Full-field scores from the Web.com Tour Championship

''There's no secret about it. I'll come out and tell you I'm here to win this tournament and get that No. 1 spot,'' McCarthy said. ''I've been hungry for a while. I have a pretty hungry attitude and I'm going to stay hungry.''

Tour veteran Cameron Tringale, who has earned just $2,660 after missing two of the first three cuts, was 12 under after a 67. Last year, Tringale entered the Web.com Tour Championship at 63rd on the Finals money list and finished tied for fifth to get back onto the PGA Tour. He struggled again this season, though, missing 19 cuts in 26 starts.

''Yeah, I was hoping last year was my last time here, but I do have a comfort at this golf course and I'm excited to keep pressing,'' Tringale said.

The four-tournament series features the top 75 players from the Web.com regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top 25 finishers on the Web.com regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals.

Sepp Straka and Ben Silverman were three shots back. Each would likely need a top-5 finish to earn his card.

Peter Malnati, who regained his card with a second-place finish in the opening finals event, followed his opening-round 74 with a 9-under 62, shooting an 8-under 27 on his second nine.

Four-time PGA Tour winner Aaron Baddeley was among those who missed the cut. He was 22nd on the finals money list going in and likely will fall short of earning his card.

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Thomas (69) only three back with 'C' or 'D' game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 21, 2018, 11:56 pm

ATLANTA – Justin Thomas was tied for fourth place following his second-round 69 on Friday at the Tour Championship, which considering the state of his game on Day 2 was an accomplishment.

“I wish I had my 'B' game today. I would say I had my 'C' or 'D' game today,” he laughed.

Thomas’ struggles were primarily with his driver and he hit just 6 of 14 fairways at East Lake, but he was able to scramble late in his round with birdies at Nos. 15 and 18 to remain three off the lead.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“I drove it so poorly today, this is probably in my top 5 rounds of the year I'm most proud of just because I easily could have shot 4- or 5-over par today and not had a chance to win the tournament,” he said. “I hung in there and birdied two of the last four, and I have a chance.”

Thomas was slowed the last two weeks by a right wrist injury that limited his preparation for the finale and said the issue with his driver is timing and the byproduct of a lack of practice.

Thomas made up for his erratic driving with his short game, getting up and down four out of seven times including on the fourth hole when he missed the fairway well left, punched out short of the green and chipped in from 81 feet.

“[Rory McIlroy] just kind of said it looked like a ‘3’ the whole day and I kind of laughed because I played with him at The Players and I chipped in three times that first round with him, so I guess he's good luck for me,” Thomas said.

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McIlroy two behind Woods, Rose after 68

By Rex HoggardSeptember 21, 2018, 11:46 pm

ATLANTA – Maybe it should be no huge surprise that Rory McIlroy finds himself back in contention at the Tour Championship. It is, after all, a Ryder Cup year.

In 2016, McIlroy won the finale before heading to Hazeltine and posting a 3-2-0 record. In ’14, he finished runner-up to Billy Horschel and went 2-1-2 at the Ryder Cup; and in ’12 he finished tied for 10th place at East Lake and went 3-2-0 at Medinah.

“I was on such a high a couple of years ago going into Hazeltine after winning the whole thing, and I felt great about my game that week and played well. I won three matches,” McIlroy said. “I guess it doesn't matter whether it's a match play event or whatever. If you're playing well and you've played well the week before, I think most people can carry it into the next week, whatever that is.”

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

McIlroy’s performance this week certainly qualifies as “playing well.” He charged out on Friday with birdies at two of his first three holes and bounced back from a pair of late bogeys to shoot a 68 and was in third place and two strokes off the lead held by Tiger Woods and Justin Rose.

“I've made 12 birdies in 36 holes, which is really good around here, and that's with not birdieing either of the par 5s today,” he said. “So yeah, just tidy up the mistakes a little bit.”