A decade after his emotional victory at the 2011 Open Championships, Darren Clarke returns to the scene of his best hour, Royal St George’s, hoping to rekindle the magic that has lifted him to glory all these years ago
It’s been ten years since you won the Royal St George’s Open Championship. Apart from the well-documented celebrations after the victory, what is your memory of that week, and do you remember what your expectations were in the championship?
There is so much to take in at the moment, from that moment when you know you have done enough, to the special people in your life and then bringing the trophy back to my two sons, which was an emotional thing.
When I experienced the tournament, I beat it very well, but could not predict anything. In my practice rounds I picked up rather than sit down, it was so bad. But Wednesday afternoon I hit a few holes with my psychologist Bob Rotella and it freed me and I went from there. With the start of the tournament, I had the feeling of calm that I have always felt when I experienced my best golf tournaments. I trust my process, do not worry about the outcome and end up with the best result.
What kind of expectations do you have for returning to St. George’s a decade older and wiser this summer?
Talk to me on Sunday night! It’s weird, it feels like more than a decade, but also like yesterday. It will be my first time back at Royal St George’s, and it will be great to see the place and feel the memories again, but as the week approaches, it matters.
There is a common belief that you were something of a link specialist, but is that a misnomer, given your profits on all kinds of courses? And if not, what about switching courses that best suit your style of play?
If you grew up in Northern Ireland, you had to get used to a bit of bad weather! Naturally, this means that once you start playing, you need to be creative and find a way to play all sorts of different shots. Of course, I’ve had the biggest win of my career at Royal St George’s, and people will associate me with that, but I’m proud that my game has traveled well, too, and I’m lucky enough to win all over the world of different courses.
Is there anything in professional golf that you would trade for a Claret Jug?
No. The Open Championship is the oldest, largest and best tournament in the world. All the American greats came to play it. It’s so special. When I was growing up, it was always a pitfall to win The Open. This is the big one. Golf was good for me and I’m so proud to have my name on The Claret Jug.
You have, of course, had an extraordinarily successful career as a player and captain of the Ryder Cup, but do you know what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently in the way your career has developed?
I just think you can not really look at life that way. Obviously there are a lot of twists and turns along the way, but I can look back on what I have done so far and be pretty happy with it, and the good thing about life is that I play on the Champions regularly. Tour and still enjoy the challenge it brings.
The Champions Tour is a tough school these days, especially given the high caliber of players of your generation who prefer to stay in the competition. How did you find the transition to senior golf, and how proud were you to get back into the winning circle?
It really is and it took me a while, but it’s great. I started playing a little more on the European tour in 2017 and 2018, and I started here a few times later that year. The standard is very good, and although parts of the tour are a bit more relaxed, it’s still extremely competitive. The victory at the Timber Tech Championship was very special, and I was proud to follow it up at the Mitsubishi Electric in Hawaii.
How much do you look forward to playing in the Senior Open Championship at Sunningdale?
I’m really looking forward to setting it up at Sunningdale because it’s a course I know well, because I lived in that part of the world and played a lot of golf there over the years. I’m going to try it really well because it’s a tournament that all senior golfers want to win.
Staying healthy and fit, and the power of modern equipment, have obviously helped many older players stay competitive longer, but what do you prescribe to play at the highest level for more than three decades?
There are many reasons why I do this for so long, I think, but the reason I do it now is because I love what I do. I still want to work hard and try to improve every day. I still feel that drive to get better.
You have shown your name on a new range of downtown products designed to help golfers deal with stress and enable them to concentrate better. How did that association come about and how did it help your own well-being on and off the golf course?
The launch of Darren Clarke CBD was a non-decisive issue. The main benefits of downtown are restoration, something that many people can often struggle with. Muscle pain and joint pain between rounds will be significantly reduced, which as a pro golfer playing three or four tournaments is a big advantage. The partnership with Sana Lifestyle arose due to a desire on both sides to create a range of downtown products that would transform the downtown golf market. Sana Lifestyle is a very credible and reputable company within the wellness category, so it made sense to work with them.
The CBD oils from Darren Clarke come in different flavors, do you have a favorite and how involved were you in creating the range?
Precision Orange is very good. Although some downtown oils work well, they taste rather strange, and it is absolutely a must to make a product that consumers would like to use. We want to make sure our consumers use a product that tastes good, rather than taste a little medicinal.
To begin with, we stick to a fairly small range to give our customers a clear catalog. Further down the line, I’m sure we’ll trade in other types of downtown based products, and I’m looking forward to conceptualizing them.