Clarke reaps reward for practising hard

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The Independent Online

Darren Clarke describes his weight as "highly confidential." But his impressive four-stroke victory in the NEC World Championship here - a tournament boasting every member of the world's top 50 - was the result of the hefty Ulsterman sentencing himself to hard labour.

"I tend to work pretty hard," Clarke said. "People don't think that I do looking at me, but I do. This was the best I've ever prepared for a tournament. Sometimes good things come out of bad things - I missed the cut in the US PGA, but I didn't play that badly and I couldn't wait to get practising again."

All the work paid off, not just with the winner's cheque of $1,050,00 (£650,000) but a dramatic improvement in his play on the greens, so much so that Clarke finished top of one of the putting categories. "That's a major achievement for me," the 35-year-old said.

Time spent with the Southport-based putting guru, Harold Swash, helped bring about that change, while his swing coach, Butch Harmon, and mental coach, Bob Rotella, have also played their part. "Butch brought an arm brace over to me at the Open," Clarke said. "It stops my right arm collapsing at the top, which in turn makes my swing a little bit shorter and a little bit wider. It's been working very well."

Rotella told Clarke that he should wait for things to happen on the course rather than force them. "Patience is not one of my virtues and it's been frustrating playing well and not having the results to show for it, but to win a tournament as important as this one makes me feel pretty good," he added.