Is your game in the doldrums? Are you having trouble getting it together? Do you think you should be playing a whole lot better than you are?
Darren Clarke, winner of this year’s British Open, had some real jewels in his interview at this week’s WGC – Bridgestone Invitational played at Firestone in Akron, Ohio, that should give the rest of us some comfort as we work to achieve the best in our games.
In his answer to this first question, he talks about living life with the mindset of high expectations; expecting to win rather than worrying whether you will. And that you have to keep throwing yourself into the cauldron. It’s not just thinking about it, you have to be in action.
This is a little early to tell, but how much does your expectations change on yourself as a player now that you’re a major champion as opposed to the career that you had leading up to that week?
I don’t think my expectations will change at all because I’ve always set myself pretty high standards and got extremely frustrated when I didn’t get anywhere near them. In terms of what my expectations will be, they won’t change at all. I want to keep playing and keep competing and keep contending and trying to win golf tournaments. That’s why I’ve stuck through the bad time, as well, to put myself in position. If you don’t put yourself in position, you can’t challenge yourself.
In this next answer, he points to how being centered and engaged helps to step over the human emotions that can take us out of the present. Experienced surgeons completely engrossed in the intricacies of the operation they’re performing are perfect examples of this in another demanding discipline that combines the mental and the physical.
You were so composed on Sunday at St. Georges. Did you ever break down or anything?
No, no. I was – I don’t know what came over me, I really don’t. I wish I did because I had dreamt it much more often. But I was very comfortable with the position, I was very confident in what I was trying to do and I was hitting the ball nicely, so I was able to control for the most part what I was trying to do. So… I was very uncharacteristically composed.
In this next answer, he talks about the importance of confidence and how to go about getting it. And once again, it’s all about throwing yourself into the river until you have no doubt that you can swim…better…and better…and better.
How much is confidence part of victory? And how do you have it if you haven’t won in a while?
I think confidence is everything in victory. You need to have the self-belief that you can hit the shot when you need to hit the shot or make the four-footer when you need to make the four-footer. In any sport you need to have the confidence. How do you get it? Keep putting yourself in the position. Keep putting yourself in the position where it hurts if you mess up. You try to learn — I’m 42, I’m still trying to learn. Although for me I think I won six weeks before the Open. I had already won a tournament during the season. And that was my first time back in contention for a while since 2008. I think that stood me in good stead going in there. So the feelings I was getting when I was leading and stuff were not that alien to me…you need to have that confidence…
In this answer about how Tiger will do this week, he points out that no one, including Tiger, will know until he’s in the hot seat of a competitive situation.
You mentioned Tiger as the player to beat for a long time, and he mentioned that he’s healthy now for the first time in a long time. I wonder if he’s still the player to beat, or maybe to put it another way, the best player to measure yourself against still?
I won’t know that or you guys won’t know that until we go and see how he performs in competition. You can practice all you want and get yourself ready, but you don’t really know until you put yourself into a competitive situation how good your game is. It’ll be very interesting the first two rounds. And knowing Tiger like I do, I don’t think he would come back to play unless he was ready to come back and play, both physically and mentally, and ready for the challenge again.
In this next answer he speaks about holding a positive vision of yourself and the need for patience, resolve and hard work.
The longer you’re away from the top of the game, does it make it much that harder to get back?
No, because I never felt that my game was that far away from where it was before. I know my scores weren’t reflective of that, but my ball-striking and the way I was playing, I was never that far away. And the margins are so fine out here between success and failure that it’s not always very easy to judge how somebody is playing.
For the most part, my game has been really good this past couple of years, but I haven’t been able to get it all together. I’ve been able to do that an awful lot — for the most part all year, and things have been better.
As I said, the game is fickle. It gives and it takes away. You get maybe, what, five, ten percent back out of the game of what you put in. I’ve certainly been putting 150 percent in and getting zero percent back out, and it’s just turned around a little bit.
It’s a case of, I don’t know, pursuing your dreams and keep working, working hard. There is no substitute for working hard.