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Full Flow Clarke

Ten months ago the new Open champion told us he would win again but who knew it would be the game's greatest prize? Alex Jenkins reports

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Daniel Wong

For the next few minutes, Clarke n the lead up to last year's UBS spoke exclusively about his career. Hong Kong Open, HK Golfer "A journalist once said that I Events – the events arm of this would have done much better if magazine – organized a golf I hadn't stopped off for a pint of day for one of our distinguished Guinness along the way – and advertisers – Audemars Piguet, that's a pretty good synopsis," the globally-renowned watch brand. It admitted Clarke, to cheers from proved to be a rather insightful occasion. the guests. "You've got to have a Not only did we have AP ambassador Rory good mix of fun and hard work McIlroy, soon-to-be US Open champion, at this game – but perhaps I've gracing the fairways with our lucky guests, enjoyed myself a bit too much." but the evening festivities promised to be There was no guessing by this fabulous, with Graeme McDowell (the point that Clarke, who has been reigning US Open champion before Rory known to enjoy a wee snifter or nabbed his thunder), Darren Clarke and two, was in full flow. India's Shiv Kapur all scheduled to speak " Pe r f e c t i o n i s t h e wo r s t at the gala dinner. Unfortunately – or affliction in professional golf, and fortunately, depending on how you look at I've been known to get a little it – things didn't quite go to plan. bit angry on myself on occasion" The fact was that both GMac and Kapur continued Clarke, with a laugh. were busily finishing off their rain-delayed "I have suffered a bit with that final rounds at the Singapore Open, which Darren Clarke: Great golfer, throughout my career" meant they weren't going to be able to join brilliant raconteur Clarke then touched upon his us here in Hong Kong. That's a shame, we wife, Heather, who as most will thought, but at least we still have Clarke, know passed away with cancer six who we were sure was going to entertain us with stories of his topsy-turvy career. That's the point about Big Darren: he's one years ago when the Ulsterman was in the prime of those top-class golfers who might not have fulfilled his true potential, but at of his golfing life. "I don't want to make excuses, but at the time least he'll give us plenty of memorable yarns that he'd picked up along the way. I was going in the right direction, I was just How wrong we were. Yes, Clarke, who was swathed in a rather swish grey-coloured suit and a mighty starting to get going," said the man who at the AP watch for the evening, gave us a sprinkling of what life on tour was all about. He time had just landed his second WGC event. made a few quips about his fellow competitors – particularly Colin Montgomerie, "That all changed when Heather passed." Following Heather's death, Clarke, who has but who doesn't do that? – and he beamed in the glory of Europe's then recent Ryder two young sons, changed his priorities. Cup win (which he vice-captained). But the really interesting parts – parts which "The boys came first, no question," he said. might explain why no-one should be that surprised by his Open Championship win "Golf took a back seat, I had two young sons, I - focused on what he had to say about himself. As Clarke took to the stage, Julian Tutt, the renowned television commentator had to look after them." Despite this, Clarke would later excel at the and emcee for the evening, was quick to talk about the Clarke that we, as golf 2006 Ryder Cup and followed that up with two fans, knew about. "Now, Darren," Tutt quizzed, "would it be fair to say that you haven't won as wins in 2008. It had been lean picking since, however. many times as your talent deserves?" "But I haven't given up hope. I am dedicated Clarke, who had by this time enjoyed, as his want, a number of glasses of the fine reds that were on offer, replied: "Oh, Jules, I don't believe you know how to this game and I'm working very hard, despite what some might say," said Clarke, who was many times I've actually won." smiling throughout. "I definitely think I can win Tutt looked decidedly unsure, and guessed, in that magnificent Etonian accent of his, 10. "I've had 20 professional wins, but you're right, I should have again." And so right he was. won more," Clarke replied matter-of-factly. 78

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HKGOLFER.COM 78 HK GOLFER・AUG 2011 final shot Darren Clarke: Great golfer, brilliant raconteur Daniel Wong