Tiger's texts transformed Clarke into a major player

American's messages provided detailed advice on how to capture the Claret Jug
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The Independent Online

Tiger Woods' influence on Darren Clarke's major breakthrough was much greater than first thought. The former world No 1's text messages to his Irish friend were a detailed explanation of the mentality required to win an Open championship.

"Darren got two text messages from Tiger," confirmed the Ulsterman's manager, Chubby Chandler, yesterday. "They weren't just 'play well' messages either. It was a real bit of sports psychology."

Chandler would not expand on the contents but The Independent learnt that one of the texts ran to hundreds of words and meticulously outlined to Clarke the techniques he used to win his 14 majors. Said Clarke: "I wouldn't want to go into what Tiger said to me in the texts, but they were very much appreciated and helped when it came to believing that I could win."

Clarke also took a phone call from Woods on a Sunday night when his mobile almost seized up. "I had so many messages from past major winners saying 'welcome to the club'," said the 42-year-old who became the oldest winner of the Claret Jug in 44 years. "The reaction has been wonderful."

Last night Clarke was bracing himself for another "wonderful reaction" when he returned to Portrush. Rather incredibly, if not bizarrely, Northern Ireland was welcoming its third different major champion home in 14 months. Clarke will attend a homecoming reception and press conference at the golf club today and then tomorrow he will return to southern England to meet sponsorship commitments.

Yet as commitments go, these will be more than welcome as Clarke will be presented with a £2m cheque by the Dunlop owner, Mike Ashley. Clarke entered a contract with the sportswear firm run by the Newcastle United chairman a decade ago and now has scooped the maximum bonus for winning the Open.

Chandler, who also manages Rory McIlroy, predicts this will be just the start of the rewards. "He is great for sponsors. And he is big in Japan where he is really popular," he said. "He is always smiling, likes to travel, and does a good job. He will be a great Open champion and th phone will never stop ringing. But it will be different calls than for Rory. It will be different kinds of sponsors. Darren has room for some more logos on his shirts!"

Chandler, himself, will be chasing his own glory at the USPGA in three weeks' time. If one of his clients follow up on the achievements of Charl Schwartzel, McIlroy and Clarke then Chandler, as head of International Sports Management, will have won all four majors this year. Inevitably it has been coined "The Chubby Slam".

The Boltonian would not be drawn on what that would mean, saying only "it's ridiculous". But both he and Clarke expressed their hope that Lee Westwood would finally break his duck at Atlanta Athletic Club. It must have been hard on the Englishman to watch so many of his stablemates winning majors but Clarke remains convinced his Ryder Cup partner will have his day soon.

"I feel for Lee, he has been there so many times. The game is fickle. It hammers you, it hammers you and then it gives you something. Right now it's tough on Lee. Rory winning and then me winning. That will be hard on him. But if I was a gambling man, I would have a substantial bet on Lee winning the USPGA in Atlanta. I hope he does."