Darren Clarke admits he tried a little too hard at last week’s Open Championship in Hoylake but hopes a more relaxed attitude and new putter can help him defend the Senior Open title this week.
The 2011 Open champion defends the title he edged Pádraig Harrington to twelve months ago and he headlines a strong Irish contingent in Royal Porthcawl this week.
Clarke is joined by the aforementioned Harrington, European Seniors Amateur champion, Eddie McCormack, Joe Lyons, Eamonn O’Connor, Mark McNulty and Lough Erne’s Damian Mooney who topped the Monday qualifier.
“It would be huge to defend my title. I actually hit the ball really well last week from Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Flushed it on the range Friday. Didn’t quite happen on the golf course. Maybe I was trying a little too hard, and didn’t make any putts,” said Clarke.
“But I came here and visited a few of the trucks on Saturday morning before I came down here, and stole quite a few putters from them, and hopefully I found one that might actually work this week. It did this morning, anyway, so we shall see. I want to go out there and enjoy it and try to get myself right up there in contention again.”
Clarke last played in Royal Porthcawl in the 1988 European Team Championships so he has been busy reacquainting himself with the Welsh links.
“I’m looking forward to it. The last time played here at Royal Porthcawl was 1988 in the European Team Championships for Ireland, so I’ve sort of forgotten how wonderful the golf course is. I got to play is.
“I drove down on Saturday after missing the cut up at Hoylake, then played Sunday, played yesterday, played today and the course is just absolutely brilliant. Conditions-wise, holes, everything, it’s pristine.”
The Dungannon man is part of an illustrious quartet of Gary Player, Tom Watson and Bob Charles as the only players to have won the Open and Senior Open.
“That is a lofty group to be in. I think I said last year whenever I did manage to win it, as soon as I turned 50 my goal and my dream was to win the Senior Open, the British Senior Open after winning the main Open, and I was able to change that last year.
“That being said, I’d dearly love to defend this week. When you walk into Royal Portrush, there’s a display cap there up on the right-hand side and both my replica Claret Jug and replica Senior Claret Jug are sitting side by side.”
Clarke tees off alongside Jose Maria Olazabal and YE Yang.