Honest bag man gives Clarke a lift

JOHN MULROONEY, who caddied for Darren Clarke at last weekend’s British Open, has joined the chorus of praise and admiration reverberating around the sporting world for the Dungannon man’s achievement, describing Sunday as “the most amazing day of my life”.

But the Bray native had more than a little say in Clarke’s performance, having provided the harsh, honest words needed in the days before the championship.

“On the Wednesday, Darren came and he said to me, ‘I think I’ve gone too technical’. I lost my temper and I said, ‘I’ve been saying that to you for weeks’, and I just went into one. I won’t go into exactly what I said, but I gave him one and he thanked me for it the next day. He told me, ‘what you said to me is exactly what I need you to say if I get like that again’. I was passionate and honest and said things he needed to hear.”

Having said his piece, Mulrooney was confident that everything was in place for Clarke to go on a challenge for his first Major, especially having encountered an encouraging omen or two along the way.

“I felt it was on. He was playing great and he just stared letting it flow and making shots. Not thinking technically and just hitting shots he was saying, ‘I’m not even thinking I’m just hitting it’.

“We came in after practice on Tuesday with Lee Westwood and Darren’s locker was with all former Major winners. Darren mentioned that they must have made some sort of mistake. I never said it was a lucky locker but it made a difference. All these things kept happening all week, like the locker. The R&A actually requested when Greg [Norman] wasn’t going to come to put Darren in there among the Major winners.

“Tom Watson said to his caddy, ‘they’re telling him something’. On the last day his caddy said the locker is in the right place. Things like that were in our minds.”

Clarke has always struggled with inconsistency in his game, but Mulrooney insists it was no coincidence that his game fell into place at Royal St George’s, having targeted the tournament in advance.

“Before we came here we talked about the British Open a lot. He wasn’t going to play the Scottish Open. He was going to come to Sandwich to play a practice round. He said he was 42 and he hadn’t many chances to win a Major and he wanted to give it his best shot and I felt exactly the same.

“We’d been thinking about this the whole time. It did affect him. He was being very hard on himself, he was very un-accepting on any mistakes, he was trying too hard to get form and it was affecting him in the build up.”

It was this overly critical appraisal Clarke gave himself that inspired Mulrooney’s honest outburst. Despite plain sailing for most of the weekend, the caddie admits his temper roused itself once more when Clarke’s over-analytical tendencies resurfaced.

“He started thinking again on the last day, we actually fell out at the end because he was thinking too much again. Which was a risk, I know, but nothing happens if you don’t take risks.”

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