Clarke banking on experience (and Dr Bob)

Darren Clarke tees off in practice

Darren Clarke reckons experience can trump power as he bids to win The Open for a second time.

While pundits like Paul McGinley believe the big hitters will dominate on the Old Course, Ryder Cup skipper Clarke is convinced he still has a chance.

A veteran of four previous Opens at St Andrews — 1995, 2000, 2005 and 2010 — the 2011 champion is not waving the white flag just yet.

The 46-year old said: “The youngsters have length and the likes of Dustin Johnson can take bunkers out of play the rest of us can’t.

“But with experience, if the wind quarters, your lines change massively off the tee and that’s where playing here all those times helps.”

McGinley reckons players like Jordan Spieth, will struggle due to lack of length and proper links preparation on a course where staying out of bunkers is crucial.

But Clarke is not ruling out Spieth’s chances, insisting: “The hot streak he’s on is incredible. If he putts well, anything is possible.”

Putting is Clarke’s biggest headache and he admits his struggles are driving him crazy.

Without a Top-10 in Europe since he won The Open in 2011, he said: “I have got great control of the flight, especially with the driver at the moment and I have just got to take my opportunities.

“I’m hitting it great but missing everything and that’s really frustrating and it’s hard not to lose patience.

“You’d think after nearly 25 years on tour that I’d be easier on myself but 25 years on Tour would drive anybody mad!”

He’s looking to mental guru Dr Bob Rotella to help him regain the calm he had when he finally won The Open at Sandwich four years ago.

Clarke said: “I’ll go on now and spend a little bit of time with Dr Bob on the greens and see if I can figure something out.

“My patience levels are low because I'm hitting good shots and not making any putts. It's frustrating to say the least.

“I've played much worse in my career and scored much better. If I'm hitting the ball well and not scoring, my patience tends to run out. It's not the way I'd like to be.”

He's one of 28 former champions who tee it up in the Champion Golfer’s Challenge today, teaming up with Arnold Palmer, Paul Lawrie and Bill Rogers for the four-hole exhibition.

But while he’ll also be handed the Freedom of the Links as a special honour for being an Open champion, what he really wants is another chance to challenge for that Claret Jug again.

And having once admitted that he didn’t like the Old Course, he’s now a big fan and prepared to keep learning how to play it.

“The Open is always a special event, even more so when it’s played here,” he said. “But I am always learning here.

“There’s a few putts that I misread today, thinking I knew the greens, and I was wrong. You always learn that here because of the size of the greens you’re always going to be in different places. 

“You try to get as comfortable as you can on them, but because they’re so big you’re never going to learn them all.”

He still hits the ball a long way, reducing the 495 yard 17th to a drive and a “little six iron” from 161 yards.

"I just want to go out and play." he said. "Over the 29 years I have been coming here. I have learnt to appreciate it more as a golf course and to play it in an Open Championship is really special.”