What a year

Posted: 13th July 2012

I’m taking the silver claret jug back to its keepers next week hoping that it’s just a short-term loan.

But whatever happens at Royal Lytham and St.Annes next week one thing won’t change.   My name will be on the trophy for ever.

It’s been a fantastic year and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed taking the jug with me all around the world.   It’s definitely been to places it has never visited before and hundreds of people have had chance to have their picture with it. Wherever it’s been, it’s been the star attraction.

Off the course has been absolutely wonderful for the entire year although I can’t say the same for the on the course side of my life.   Hopefully the promising signs of late will continue and I’ll be able to give a strong defence of the title that was the fulfilment of a lifetime dream.

I really have had a wonderful year.  To be announced on tees as Open champion around the world, not many people ever get that and I’ve looked upon that as an unbelievable honour, particularly on the tee at Portrush for the unbelievably successful Irish Open, ‘Darren Clarke Open champion’, that’s as big an accolade in the game as you can actually get.

As for my game, well, after a long time wondering where it had gone, I’m feeling much better about it than I have for a very, very long time. I’ll practice hard on Saturday and Sunday, and really spend a lot of time working around the greens and getting to know them again – try and get myself as best prepared as I can.­­­­

A couple of months ago, I was tired and run down. I was guarding against getting through the ball properly because of my groin. Hindsight’s a wonderful thing, I should have taken a little bit of time off earlier, but no, I thought, ‘I’m not going to be a wimp, I’m going to keep on playing. It’s just a niggling groin injury, I’ll keep on playing’.

I was hoping that if I kept playing I’d play myself into form. Unfortunately it wasn’t happening so I had to come to the realisation that at some stage, you have to take a bit of time off. My priority this year was the Open Championship, so I had to take the time off. I’ve had a wonderful time at home resting, practicing a little bit, and I’ve come back refreshed; I’m ready to go. At the Irish Open, I played OK, and then France I played nicely and I’m looking forward to next week.

If I was to go to the Open next week, play well and get myself into contention, would I be surprised? No. I’m old enough and long enough in the tooth to do it. So if I do, great stuff. I’m pretty happy where my game’s at right now.

And if I’m playing with Tiger on the last day in the last group then that would be fantastic.  And if that happens I won’t be expecting any texts of encouragement and support from him like I did last year. Maybe I might send him some.

But whatever happens, I have memories that will last a lifetime.

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