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Clark Hopes to Get Back in Winner's Circle This Week


Tim Clark returns to a familiar place this week when he plays in the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, N.C. The diminutive South Africa native attended college at North Carolina State in Raleigh, where he enjoyed great success. After winning ACC Player of the Year honors in 1997, he went on to win the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship that same year and qualified for the 1998 Masters, the first of his 11 appearances in that Grand Slam event.

After turning pro following his first Masters, great things were predicted for Clark. Although he's had 11 victories worldwide, only one - the 2010 Players Championship, which gave him exempt Tour status through 2015 - has taken place on the PGA Tour.

Clark had a tough time in 2011 following elbow surgery, but he's starting to get his game back in order. In 15 events so far, he's made eight cuts and logged five top-25 finishes, the highest of which is T-4 in the Travelers Championship in June. He also closed with a 3-under 69 to gain a share of 11th in last week's PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, S.C.

On Wednesday, Clark met with reporters and discussed the state of his game and what it's like returning to North Carolina. He also talks about the possible ban on belly putters - which he uses to great effect, a discussion that's taking place in the headquarters of the USGA and the R&A. Here's what Clark had to tell the media on the eve of the $5.2 million Wyndham, which starts Thursday at Sedgefield Country Club.

MODERATOR: I'd like to welcome Tim Clark. Tim, kind of a home event this week for you after playing golf at NC State. If you want to kind of talk about your thoughts playing at Wyndham and the new greens. I don't know if you've had a chance to test them out. If you want to talk about those two things and we'll have some questions.

TIM CLARK: Yeah. Obviously nice to be back. I've been looking forward to this tournament for a long time now. Obviously being the last event before the Playoffs, a great opportunity to move up in the FedEx Cup. So I've certainly be looking for forward it. It's a course I like. With the green changes it's going to be a big improvement in the golf course too, play a little bit tougher, firmer greens. Yeah, nice to be back here in North Carolina. Don't get to play too often here. It's good to be back.

MODERATOR: Questions?

Q. What's the biggest changes in your strategy with the greens? I know with the bent grass greens you were going right at the pins every hole. What is the biggest change?

TIM CLARK: Obviously when they get firmer like that it's not just a case of firing at every flag. You know, you're going to have to pick your spots and, you know, sometimes you're going to have to probably play away from some flags. Makes it play a little bit tougher. We'll probably see that in the scoring.

Q. Carl has won and you've been in contention before. You feel like it's about time you win here?

TIM CLARK: Yeah. It's been awhile. Obviously being injured last year I wasn't here at the event, I haven't played in a couple years. But, again, it's a course I do enjoy. I've always loved playing golf in North Carolina. I think the golf courses are very traditional. You don't need a whole lot of length. More about positioning the golf ball and really playing good golf tee to green. So, yeah, I certainly feel like this is a good course for me.

Q. Tim, is there any distinction about this tournament or the way the crowds are here or the way the course is that distinguishes this from other Tour events?

TIM CLARK: Hard to say, really. You know, I know for me I just enjoy coming back to North Carolina and playing. For me it's got a little bit of a different sort of meaning to it but obviously they're putting a lot of hard work for this tournament here over the last few years and they're putting a lot of effort into the golf course and really trying to build it up. For a long time this was a premiere event convenient, Sam Snead won here how many times? So, I think it's an event guys like me have an affiliation to the area, want to see grow and I know Carl feels the same way and, you know, I think the field has gotten stronger over the years so it's showing that the effort they're putting in is paying off.

Q. Do you think as a marketing thing, the field strength matters in terms of drawing attention and making a tournament more prominent?

TIM CLARK: I'm sure it does help. You know, there's no question you get your best players playing your events, the tournament gets more recognition.

Q. Can you speak on the belly putter controversy going on right now?

TIM CLARK: It's been going on for so long so it's not just right now I guess but, you know, I guess they're going to try and make a decision here this year and who knows what that's going to be. It's hard to say either way. You know, be easier to comment once they do make a decision. But, obviously, it's something that's been used a lot more on the Tour now than it had been in the years gone by and that's probably why it's become an issue now.

In my mind they left it way too long to come down and say we're going to ban it. It should have been banned 20 years ago if they were going to ban it. The fact that they haven't by now, I think they've left it too long and too many guys have made their career out of using a certain piece of equipment that they're suddenly going to take away from them. Again, I don't know what decision they're going to make but I'm going - I see it going to be a much tougher decision than it seems to be, I think.

Q. Tim, some of the guys have practiced, some of the ones using belly putters have practiced with the lower. Have you tried the traditional?

TIM CLARK: It's not something I'll worry about now. I'll wait, like I say, for a decision to be made and then take it from there. But it's not something I've played around with.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about the process of coming back from your injury and do you feel like your game is all the way back from where it was?

TIM CLARK: You know, it's certainly showing signs I'm all the way back but it's just getting that consistency back. I certainly have rounds where I play as good as I played before the injury. So, in terms of that, yes, I'm back but still is that little bit of consistency. I find things, you know, things that you don't quite perform as well. I guess that happened before the injury, too. You're not always in the Top-10 of winning tournaments. I do feel like I'm back to where I wanted to be. I knew it would be a long year. At the start of the year I wasn't really ready for tournament golf yet but I wanted to get out and start playing. I figured that would be the best way for me to get back sooner rather than staying at home and just trying to practice and figure it out that way.

So, it's been an encouraging year. I don't really know what I expected. I thought - I thought it would be a lot easier at the start to get back to playing the way I wanted to. That took a good five, six weeks. At that point I was thinking about taking forever but luckily the last few months it's really turned around and I feel like I'm now in a position to be in The Playoffs and if I can start playing really well now, I could go quite deep in them.

Q. Tim, you being an NC State alum, got Carl Pettersson and Davis Love, UNC, NC State last year, Webb, Wake Forest, ACC guys, whatnot. Does that kind of give you a little extra motivation to kind of join that group of ACC guys that have won this tournament that's right in the home stomping grounds?

TIM CLARK: Yeah, absolutely. It's quite interesting that all these guys have played well here, you know, so there's obviously something in that the home guys have done well. I think it, again, comes down to the style of golf courses that we play and the fact that we're used to them and obviously enjoy them. So, I certainly would like to join that list of players and having seen Carl win here a few years ago it was really good to see because obviously being such close friends.

Q. Tim, Coach Sykes going to come and see you guys like he always does or do you expect to see him?

TIM CLARK: I'm not sure. I haven't spoken to him recently. I know at some point he tries to bring some of the team down on the weekend and watch some golf. I think it's a great experience for the guys to get to a Tour event and see what goes on and watch some golf and see how the top players play and, yeah, I'm sure we'll see him this weekend.

Q. When you see him when you're actually on the course, do you loosen up when you see him because he can make you laugh pretty easily from what I understand.

TIM CLARK: He's a great guy. Obviously I owe a lot to Richard and NC State for the opportunity they gave me to come over and play golf. I certainly always love seeing him and enjoy our chats.

Q. Can you comment on Rory McIlroy and the dominance he had at the PGA?

TIM CLARK: Yeah. Obviously I was playing a few groups in front and I didn't really get to see the type of golf he played. I saw the numbers he put up. He's obviously one of those players, on his week, you probably not going to beat him. That doesn't happen very often. Obviously Tiger had that and it looks like he has that ability when he's on, he'll decimate fields and he's an amazing talent. I've played quite a few rounds with him in majors. Extremely impressive player. Be hard to say that he won't win all four majors at some point in his career.

Q. What does that do for the game overall to have a young phenom like that similar to what Tiger Woods did when he started?

TIM CLARK: I think it's tremendous for the game, particularly when you look at Rory and the type of person he is. He's a great ambassador to the game. He's a down to earth guy. He's been able to handle all his celebrity very well. I think that's an asset, too, not only for the game but to have a guy like that at the forefront of the game is good.

MODERATOR: Everybody good. Okay. Thanks a lot, Tim. Good luck this week.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.