Darren Clarke believes that killing off his “Prince of Darkness” alter ego could help him win this week’s sell-out Irish Open.
The Open champion, 43 next month, memorably kept his dark side at bay as he smiled his way to Open glory a fortnight ago.
And after turning over a new leaf to win the Claret Jug at the 20th attempt, he’s hoping he can keep a lid on his fiery temper and become the first man to complete the Open-Irish Open double in the same season.
Gunning for the €250,000 title, he said: “It would be wonderful to do the double. Usually my tee times in the past have always been late on a Friday just about making the cut and first off on a Saturday morning,
“But I played nicely here last year so hopefully I can play a little bit better this year and give myself a chance.”
Despite his good intentions, Clarke refused to rule out having one of his famous moods if things start going pear-shaped.
After all, it’s the attitude that’s driven him to work so hard for his success and he argues that he needs to let off steam to keep his sanity.
He said: “If I don’t get annoyed when I play poorly, I’m in the wrong job. I’m not going to be sweetness and light all the time if I’ve had a bad day.”
He wants to win more majors before he’s done but argues that he still needs to let his hair down and indulge in booze and fags from time to time.
Conscious that success is fleeting, he said: “I’d like to think I haven’t changed. I drink a little bit too much, smoke a little bit too much and enjoy myself a little bit too much at times. But when it comes down to it, I’ll put my head down and work whenever I really have to as well.
“I’ve always tried to enjoy myself. The game is very tough at times. You think you’ve got it in the palm of your hand and then all of a sudden it disappears.
“For me, the way that I relax and try and get away from it is I do like to have a pint now and again and relax and enjoy myself. I don’t plan to change that in any shape or form.”
Despite that he admits that future success at the top level could all depend on his ability to keep his temper under control.
He said: “Do I think I can win some more? Yeah. But we’ll see. If I can continue on with my relaxed attitude, which may all disappear after two holes tomorrow, but if I can carry on with it, then hopefully I can win some more majors.”
Refusing to claim he’s a changed man, he added: “Just because I’ve won a golf tournament, albeit it the biggest and best in the world, it has not changed the perception of myself. It has not changed me in any way whatsoever.
“I’ve won The Open. But you know, I’ve got no reason to change; I’m not a much more wiser person than I was a couple of weeks ago. I’ve won a golf tournament and I want to win some more.”
For now he’s content to ride the wave of emotion that followed his moment of glory at Royal St George’s.
And while he went on a five-day bender to celebrate his major breakthrough, he’s ready for toast some more success by win the Irish Open at the 20th attempt too.
The event’s prize fund has been slashed in half following the exit of sponsors “3” last term.
But Clarke is just proud that Irish golf is flying high and that the Tour and Failte Ireland have pulled out all the stops to keep the Irish Open at the forefront of European golf.
He said: “I think what the Tour and Discover Ireland have done to put on the Irish Open with no sponsor, to have this it premiere tournament on The European Tour, to keep it going is fantastic.
“Hopefully this week we’ll all give the crowd something to roar about. It should be fantastic.”
Despite achieving his boyhood dream of winning the Open, he confessed that it’s vital now that he sets new goals with the Bridgestone Invitational and the US PGA coming up.
Asked if he was tempted to declare his season over after his Sandwich success, he said: “There most definitely is temptation. I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve done nearly everything there is to do in the game.
“I’ve won a major, albeit I’d like to win more if possible. I’ve played Ryder Cups; I’ve won big tournaments both around the world and in America, everywhere.
“You know, I need to reassess and sit down and figure out some goals.”
While he could be tempted into rejoining the PGA Tour for the first time since 2006, he’s unlikely to go down that route with two children at home.
Instead he plans to enjoy his status as Open champion and play more good golf thanks to his new happy and relaxed attitude.
He said: “I feel much more relaxed. I think it’s not going to make any difference as to my desire and determination to win tournaments but I’m much more relaxed and looking towards the future, yes.
“Because that was the one that I’ve always strived towards winning, unfortunately I have done.
“And now, yes, I want to play well, and one of Rotella’s old saying is try less and get more; whereas I’ve done trying a lot and getting a little bit.
“So now I will try less and hopefully get a little bit more.”
Sounds like the “Prince of Darkness” is dead and gone. For now.