Darren Clarke will have to wait a little longer for his next European Tour win after a third round 72 left him 10 shots behind Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and Austria’s Markus Brier entering the final round of the Africa Open at East London.
The 42-year old partnered fellow Ulsterman Gareth Maybin (71 for 4 under) in the third round but took 34 putts on the greens in what is now becoming an all too familiar story for the world No 100.
Sharing 42nd place with a round to go is not Clarke’s idea of fun and in a Q&A with Michael Vlismas of the South African edition of the Times, he revealed what everyone in golf already knows - he’s not a patient man.
With Padraig Harrington sitting at home with three majors and Graeme McDowell competing in Hawaii with the US Open trophy back home in Portrush, it must be tough for Clarke not to think that his time has passed, especially with 21-year old Rory McIlroy threatening to become the game’s dominant player.
Clarke has never been a quitter, however, and he continues to believe that he can get back to the kind of form that saw him briefly emerge as Tiger Woods’ biggest threat before fate dealt him a few very tough hands. Despite his struggles in Africa this week, Clarke still found time to answer a few interesting questions that included his choice the world’s best cigar and his pick for the rugby World Cup.
The past two years you’ve put in a lot of work on your game. Are you close to getting it all together?
Last year, my goal was to make the Ryder Cup team and I just fell short. But overall it was a step in the right direction. Finishing 30th on the Race to Dubai rankings wasn’t bad. It’s not quite what I’m after, but it was a steady improvement. But this year I want to get that improvement going quicker. I’m not a patient man, so I’ve just got to work a little harder.
Obviously the Majors are a big focus this year?
Yeah. It’s been a while since I’ve been in them all. I want to get the year off to a good, fast start and play well in the Majors and compete there again.
Congratulations on your engagement. A Green Jacket would be a nice gift?
Any jacket would do. It’s exciting times, though. I’ve been back at home in Portrush in Northern Ireland over Christmas, eating a bit too much and definitely drinking too much Guinness.
How was it working with Colin Montgomerie on the European Ryder Cup team?
He was absolutely fantastic. Personally, it was a good experience, but also a little frustrating. I felt I wanted to play. But we had 12 fantastic players there and it was good to be a part of it in whatever capacity it was.
You’re one of the few players to have beaten Tiger Woods, twice, and kept him as a friend. What’s your secret?
Oh, he’s just a really good guy. He’s been through the mill a bit with his personal stuff. But I expect him to come out firing on all cylinders this year.
Macanudo, Cohiba or Montecristo?
Actually, I would have Hoyo de Monterrey Double Corona. It’s the best cigar in the world.
What do you like to do with your two sons?
Play golf, because they’re both getting well into the game now. Over Christmas, when the snow gave us a chance, we had chipping competitions around the green and that sort of stuff. They’re both getting very good and I enjoy playing with them.
Who do you think will win the Rugby World Cup this year?
New Zealand. I shouldn’t say that. But they always go into the World Cup with the best team but haven’t performed, and they’re going to do it one of these days.
You’ve played a bit of rugby, haven’t you?
Yeah, I was No8 or openside flanker. I love my rugby. I go and watch Ireland whenever I can. Rugby is my big love outside of golf.
What did you do before you played golf?
I worked in a nightclub for three weeks. In the third week we had a bomb scare. Everybody was evacuated and the place was blown to bits 30 minutes later, so that was the end of that job.
You started by caddying for your father. What was your most memorable moment?
Many years ago, just after I started, he said to me: “You ever get a lower handicap than me and I’ll give up the game”. And he’s still playing, so I don’t know whether my handicap has gone up or his has come down.