Clarke ready to be aggressive

Andy Farrell
Tuesday 10 June 2003 00:00
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Darren Clarke's resolve to remain at peace with the world, at least when he is on a golf course, will be tested to the full at this week's US Open at Olympia Fields. High rough, long rounds, soaring temperatures and sticky humidity often combine to make the US Open the most frustrating of tournaments in which to play.

Clarke has found it no different, only once finishing as high as tenth, at Pinehurst in 1999. But as the Irishman set off for Chicago on his private jet on Sunday night immediately after the conclusion of the British Masters he was hatching a new plan.

"Every US Open I have played in I have tried to play the course sensibly," Clarke said. "I have hit a lot of irons off the tees and tried to place the ball in the right areas. But it hasn't worked.

"This time I want to be a bit more aggressive. I am going to give it a go and attack the course. Let's see what happens. I'll either be in with a chance to win or I'll be on the plane home on Friday night. But I've got nothing to lose. I've tried it the other way but there is no point finishing 30th. That's no good to me at all."

This is not the strategy that Butch Harmon, his coach, will be advising the big Ulsterman to adopt, however. Harmon sees in Clarke the same problem as a Phil Mickelson in that a US Open does not suit an aggressive approach.

"I don't always do what Butch tells me," Clarke said with a chuckle. "But it's a long time to Thursday. I could change my mind."

By attacking the course, Clarke would at least be playing to his strengths, which this season has been his long game in general and his driving in particular. But he said he would need very thick glasses to see himself winning the US Open.

"That's mainly because of my putting," he said. "You are going to miss greens at a US Open and from that rough you are going to have a lot of six-footers for par. It has been my holing out that has let me down this season but, you never know, I think I must be due a good run with the putter."

Clarke led by three strokes after the first round of the Masters but fell away as playing four rounds in three days caught up with him. He has changed his diet and started an exercise programme, as well as the work he started in the winter on the mental side of the game with the sports psychologist Bob Rotella.

"It's a continual battle with myself but I've improved a lot this year. I'm climbing the ladder, it's just a long ladder and we all know the US Open is always the most mentally demanding tournament. What's been frustrating this year is the scores I've been shooting given the way I've played. I have not been scoring as well as I should have because of the putting."

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