Clarke needs to Master temperament


Darren Clarke knows what he can be like. He does not need anybody else to remind him.

Every attempt will be made by Clarke, though, not to blow his top during the four days of the Masters, starting today.

Nor, indeed, to get too excited should the temptation arise. Seventy-two holes round Augusta National is every bit as much of a marathon as the one being run on the streets of London on Sunday.

With his last tournament being his second place finish in the Houston Open two weeks ago, Clarke approaches the first Major of the season with eager anticipation.

He had a long wait to get going this afternoon, though. With world number two Phil Mickelson and Argentina's Angel Cabrera, players who both led last year before being overtaken by Tiger Woods, Clarke was not teeing off until the third-last group of the day.

"Houston was huge for my morale," added the 33-year-old world number 11.

"I had been working hard, but had not had a good result all year, so it was great to get some reward at last."

Rather than staying in America, Clarke flew home to see children Tyrone and Conor and, of course, wife Heather, who recently underwent breast cancer surgery.

Not that he switched off from golf totally. The Queenwood club in Surrey kindly speeded up their greens specifically for the Ryder Cup star so he could maintain his feel.

Clarke's best finish in the Masters was eighth in 1998. But it ought to be remembered that while he has played every Open championship since 1991, he is making only his fifth trip to Augusta.

Clarke is well known to American galleries thanks mainly to his performance in the Andersen Consulting World Match Play Championship in California two years ago, when he beat Woods in the 36-hole final to collect the million-dollar first prize.

Butch Harmon, coach to both of them, said at the time: "Darren looked Tiger right in the eye and did to Tiger what Tiger normally does to everybody else.

"I was not surprised he won, but I was surprised how easily he won."

The best piece of advice Clarke reckons he has ever received about Augusta National was "be patient" and he readily admits it has not been "one of my virtues really".

Well-known sports psychologist Bob Rotella was called in to help and the cigar-smoking player commented: "He's trying to get my head sorted out, which is no mean feat. I'm trying not to let things bother me as much.

"I'm slightly winning at the moment, but I'm probably breaking Bob."