Category: Archive


February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Chasing somebody who’d never won a major either to that point, Clarke was still very much in with a shout of perhaps landing his own first. Unfortunately for him, however, his subsequent tee shot was a low draw that hooked and ran out of fairway, coming to rest in a bunker. His troubles had only just begun.
With no choice but to go for the green, Clarke’s second went flying into the grandstand down the right, and having availed of a free drop, he pulled his approach and found sand again. From there, he did manage to hit the pin, but took two putts to get down. A double-bogey six had cost him any chance of putting pressure on Duval down the finishing straight. To his second-place finish at the 1997 British Open was added a joint third, and the litany of Irish near misses at majors grew longer.
Asked by reporters that Sunday afternoon whether the tee shot had cost him the tournament, Clarke clarified that it had only cost him “the opportunity” to win the claret jug. Moreover, he made a pointed comment about his on-course demeanor — the cameras caught him smiling ruefully — at the time his luck took a turn for the worse.
“What do you want me to do, break all the clubs in my bag?” he said. “There is a great sense of disappointment, but I have finished in the top few and gave myself a chance to win. And it is a tournament that I desperately want to win, whatever Tony Jacklin thinks.”
Jacklin had been criticizing Clarke and Lee Westwood about operating in a European “comfort zone” and failing to push themselves. Indeed, after the debacle on the 17th at that British Open, opinions about Clarke being mentally too brittle to win one of golf’s big four were common enough currency. If people weren’t lamenting his decision making under pressure, they were pointing out (with more justification) that he was too fat to contend in an age when fitness was in vogue.
He certainly got the message about being fit when his challenge for the 2003 Masters fell apart due to fatigue, but as for the mental weakness, how wrong we all were. This much has been demonstrated by the way Clarke — and his family — have handled his wife Heather’s second bout with cancer in just three years. There is so much guff written and talked about sport showing us what people are made of that we should have learned an important lesson by now. A person’s true character is actually revealed out of the arena and away from the spotlight.
Having taken time off, amid rumors he was planning to miss the entire season, Clarke announced the other day that he would return in this week’s South African Open. In typically generous style, any prize money he earns at Durban Country Club will go towards the tsunami victims.
“I think you are all well aware of recent difficulties in the Clarke household,” Clarke said. “My wife, Heather, was diagnosed with cancer last November and since then she has been receiving chemotherapy treatment at the Royal Marsden Hospital. Under the expert supervision of oncologist Stephen Johnson, Heather is making good progress, and although there is a long way to go, we are all hopeful that everything will settle down soon and family life will be returned to normal.
“I have a somewhat uncertain schedule for the early part of the year because I am determined not to miss any of Heather’s treatment sessions. Everything obviously depends on how Heather is, but I am looking forward to getting back.”
There has always been far more to him than the clich

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