TODD BUDNICK: We welcome Darren Clarke after his 3-under 67 in the first round of the TOUR Championship, one of the clubhouse leaders at the moment. Talk about the play today. Obviously there was a ton of rain this morning, but we got out there on time and got it going.
DARREN CLARKE: When I drove up this morning the last thing I thought was that we'd be teeing off on time. The course was a little bit wet out there as you would expect. I had a few mud balls but everybody was going to have those today. Mine didn't go too far astray. The course is in great shape and I made some good shots and great putts and 67 is pretty decent.
Q. Have you been happy with your year?
DARREN CLARKE: No.
DARREN CLARKE: I haven't won anywhere, so that's been very, very frustrating. You know, I've worked on a lot of different aspects this year, both fitness and swing-wise, and so far this year it hasn't quite all came together at the same time.
Q. You've been in contention a good bit, especially early in the tournaments. You've had a lot of first and second round leads.
DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, but I haven't won.
Q. Do you have an idea of why they may have occurred?
DARREN CLARKE: No. I've kept working, kept doing things I've been doing, and so far it hasn't all clicked for me.
Q. Is it fair to say this is really your first full year of the fitness routine and everything else?
DARREN CLARKE: Yes.
Q. I would assume you're not ready to chuck it yet?
DARREN CLARKE: I've been tempted a few times, but no, not yet.
Q. Clean living, where's the payoff, right?
DARREN CLARKE: Yeah, I've done everything right, and what's going on?
Q. I know you haven't won, but it would have been an awful year if you had to play the TOUR Championship on different sides of the ocean in consecutive weeks?
DARREN CLARKE: That's true, but my personal things, I've had a very poor year. We all play to win, and I haven't managed to do that this year so far.
Q. I was just trying to be nice to you.
DARREN CLARKE: I know. You know me, I'll tell you the truth.
Q. You played very well last week except for one hole?
DARREN CLARKE: My 11th, give me a ball, give me a ball, give me a ball? Yeah, I played okay last week, but I finished -- I don't know where I finished. I didn't even look at the end of the week. I played okay, but it doesn't really mean anything.
Q. How's the bouncing back and forth between the two tours been working out for you since it's sort of still kind of -- I won't say it's a novelty to you, but you're doing a lot of it here these last two years. DARREN CLARKE: It's pretty tough, but so far I've been able to cope okay with it, but I've got pretty much an international schedule where I play everywhere. I go from here on Sunday night to Atlanta, New York to London to Tokyo and then from there to Tampa for the Visa. I seem to be traveling all the time, so that may be taking its toll, so I'm not going to make any excuses for not winning.
Q. First time here?
DARREN CLARKE: Yes.
Q. How does it compare to Valderrama?
DARREN CLARKE: Different.
Q. Can you elaborate?
DARREN CLARKE: There's no trees in the middle of the fairways here (laughter).
Q. This being a Ryder Cup year, how did that affect you? Would that be part of it?
DARREN CLARKE: That would be the highlight of my year. Obviously being a European, being part of that team, that was an obvious high to my year. Apart from that, I haven't really had that many other ones.
Q. But did it affect you, the fact that it was a Ryder Cup year?
DARREN CLARKE: No, it just took me a while to sober up afterwards (laughter). But it was good.
Q. There's been a lot of talk recently about the Ryder Cup captaincy being overrated. Two questions: Your thoughts about Tom getting the job, and secondly, how important or otherwise do you think it is?
DARREN CLARKE: Tom Kite going to be captain again?
Q. No, Tom Lehman.
DARREN CLARKE: I know, I'm only kidding (laughter). I think Tom will be very good. He's a very highly respected player. He's won a major, he's been in the heat of battle in quite a few Ryder Cups, so I think he'll be like all the American captains, a very, very good captain. In terms of how important they are, I think everyone is slightly different. The ones before that I have played on, two of them were quite similar, Mark James and Sam Torrence, and the other two have been completely different, Seve and Bernhard Langer. So it's getting the mixture right and seeing who gets on with who. That's what I see from players. I can't comment on the captain's side obviously because I haven't been there, but that's what it seems like. Bernhard was very professional, very thorough, just as you would expect Bernhard to be.
Q. Wouldn't you guys have won even if blind Freddie had been captain?
DARREN CLARKE: I don't know. Maybe we would, maybe we wouldn't, but all we know is we won with Bernhard as our captain.
Q. Who's your guy going to be do you think?
DARREN CLARKE: Who's our guy?
DARREN CLARKE: I could tell you but I'm not going to.
Q. Darren, your first time through, just talk a little bit more about your round today and what you saw are the challenges out here, what you did well.
DARREN CLARKE: I played the course on Tuesday for the first time, and I liked the course straight away. I think it's very fair. Everything is in front of you. It's tough. If you miss it on the wrong side you're going to struggle, but it is very, very fair. I think today I hit a lot of good shots close and had a nice day again, making good putts that I had to make. Apart from 15 where I three-whacked it from 45 or 50 feet, I missed a three-and-a-half or four-footer for birdie to go 5-under for the round, but apart from that I was really pleased with it all, so I look forward to hopefully playing the same way the rest of the week.
Q. When it rains like this you're going to see lower scores because of the greens. Where do the penalties come here?
DARREN CLARKE: If you miss the fairway, it's so difficult to judge how it's going to come out of there. Sometimes it flies and sometimes it doesn't. It's tough to judge that, and trying to get your head straight around the greens, some of that stuff can be very difficult, but the fact that the greens were softer, did make it a little bit easier for us.
Q. Did you have any misjudgments out of the rough or were you in the rough today?
DARREN CLARKE: I was in the rough a few times. I had one I thought would fly and didn't on No. 4, ended up making bogey there, came up short of the green. You really had to hit it in the fairway because as much rain as it was there would be mud on the ball and sometimes it would take off this way instead of that way. All in all, I got my fair share.
DARREN CLARKE: No, not disappointed; surprised.
Q. Do you think they play it down too often?
DARREN CLARKE: No, I don't think so, but I just think after all -- I was surprised because of driving up here with the rain as I'm sure all you guys were, that we were playing the ball down.
Q. Was the course in better conditions than you thought because of the rain?
DARREN CLARKE: Yes, the course was very good.
Q. Back to the Ryder Cup captain thing, the responsibility that comes with that, do you ever foresee yourself as enjoying that role, maybe not wanting that role?
DARREN CLARKE: I would love to do it, same year that Davis Love does it. I'd love to do it. That would be good fun.
Q. With this year not going the way you wanted it to go, do you look at anything and question anything about the way that you did approach things? Is there anything you think you want to try to do?
DARREN CLARKE: I've done everything that I normally do and probably a little bit better. That hasn't turned around into results on the golf course, which has been frustrating.
Q. Does it make you examine something you want to do differently next year?
DARREN CLARKE: No, it just makes me perturbed. I've got a few better words I could use, but perturbed is probably good.
Q. You obviously started at Mercedes last year.
DARREN CLARKE: I did.
Q. Where are you going to start this year here?
DARREN CLARKE: AT & T. I'm going to go on a big run after that.
Q. Have you played AT & T?
DARREN CLARKE: No.
Q. Who talked you into that one?
DARREN CLARKE: I'm playing with Chubby. He's my partner.
T ODD BUDNICK: Let's go through your card.
DARREN CLARKE: No. 3, I hit driver, 9-iron to about 15 feet, holed it. Hit it short on 4, chipped it 15 feet past, missed it. No. 6, the par 3, hit 8-iron to about five feet, holed it. 7, I hit driver, 8-iron again to about ten feet, holed it. 12, hit driver, pitching wedge to about 25 feet, holed it. 14, hit driver, punched a 6-iron to about 18 feet, something like that, holed it. Bogey on 16, drove it in the left-hand trap, hit 5-iron there about 40 yards or 50 yards over the flag, hit a perfect pitch, hit the flag, hit the stick and spun back 25 feet, missed a three-footer there.
Q. I wonder if you would assess the strength of the European Tour right now, and is it strong because you guys have won the Ryder Cup the last X amount of times, or is it strong for other reasons, or is it not strong?
DARREN CLARKE: It's strong at the moment, especially with the young players coming through because more and more for younger guys playing are opportunities to play on the PGA TOUR, and they're more and more experienced than what they used to be, playing world championship events against the guys they're trying to beat in the Ryder Cup, so the intimidation is not there that it used to be with our rookies. Because of the fact that they are playing more around the world they're more experienced than they used to be.
Q. What does the record in the Ryder Cup mean?
DARREN CLARKE: Personal record?
Q. Is that credibility or is that just an exhibition you play every two years?
DARREN CLARKE: It's something that we all want to win every two years, but personal records, you know, they're great. You love to have a good record, but at the end of the day you prefer to be part of a winning team than have a great record. Tiger said that, one of his comments was, "Do you know what Jack Nicklaus' record was in the Ryder Cup?" You want to be part of the winning team. It's a team thing. We're there as a team thing, so personal records don't really come into it.
Q. Do you think the European Tour gets enough respect from an American perspective?
DARREN CLARKE: I think we're probably getting a little bit more now because of the way we played the last one, that as a team we all played very well, and the American fans get to see more of the European players than they've ever done before. We've got a great bunch of young players coming through there, and the more they get to play on the PGA TOUR, the more experienced they're going to get and the better it's going to make our Ryder Cup team.
Q. I guess I was looking to see if it comes from credibility, respect, whatever level it's at, if it comes more from winning majors or more from dominating in a Ryder Cup?
DARREN CLARKE: Obviously you would say winning majors because that's what we all play for. But I think being part of winning Ryder Cup teams for some of the younger guys is very important because it gives them the confidence then to carry on. They're playing against the guys here in the Top 10 in the world or whatever, that otherwise they wouldn't have an opportunity to maybe compete against head to head, and they get a lot of opportunity to play on the Ryder Cup.