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Clark 'Over the Moon' after First Tour Victory
Tim Clark became the latest PGA Tour member to rid himself of the best-player-never-to-have-won-a-title after his victory in the 2010 Players Championship.
The 5'7" native of South Africa and All-American golfer at North Carolina State University got off the winless schneid after firing a clutch 5-under 67 on Sunday to beat Robert Allenby by a stroke. Clark's cause was aided by a 66 in the third round that got him into contention for the final round.
The win, his first in 206 starts and eight years on the PGA Tour, was worth $1.71 million and 600 FedEx Cup points
Clark, who tied for second in this year's Bob Hope Classic and had two other top-10 finishes in 2010, along with six top-10s in '09, was wondering when in the world his chance to climb the podium would ever come.
"There was a part of me that thought, man, what have I been doing? I've been - when you play that many tournaments, and suddenly when you have weeks where you feel like you've played well enough to win and you haven't, it gets a bit frustrating," he said.
"I mean, I'm always happy for guys when they win, don't get me wrong. It's not a case of what's he doing winning. I've always been very happy for guys when they've won, particularly people that I consider friends of mine. But, yeah, you do start to wonder when is it going to happen for me and what do I need to do to win, particularly when you feel like you've played well enough to win and you haven't. I guess that's the nature of this game. Sometimes you don't have to play your best to win tournaments. I think luckily for me this week I did play my best. That's about as good as I can play."
After accepting the hardware and winner's check, the 33-year-old from Durban met with reporters for the following interview session.
MODERATOR: It's my pleasure to welcome and introduce our 2010 Players Championship winner, Mr. Tim Clark. Nice way to get your first win on Tour. Just let us hear how you're feeling now.
TIM CLARK: Yeah, obviously I'm over the moon. I knew it was going to be a tough day out there today, and I just tried to sort of channel what I did yesterday. I played a great round of golf yesterday and kind of hoped that I'd come out today and have the same sort of confidence and sort of trust in what I was doing, and I was able to do that.
Q. You kind of had that dubious distinction of the rich he's guy on Tour without a win. Obviously you made a great living out here. Can you talk about that maybe money isn't everything factor and how much you crave this?
TIM CLARK: Yeah, I mean, a part of me is a bit disappointed because now no one is going to talk about me anymore. At least you had something to write about before. Now I'm just another guy with a win. Yeah, it's been a long time. Probably I think I played over 200 events now on Tour, and I think the only thing that kept me sane was the fact that I had won overseas and a few other events, winning in Australia, the Australian Open a couple years ago, the Scottish Open and a couple South African Opens, that kind of helps. I think if you don't win at all anywhere, then it could take its toll, but I had some success elsewhere. And really out on this Tour I look at lots of tournaments. Sometimes you've got to look at second places as a success. It's tough out here. Obviously, I'm very thrilled to have finally won. I'm hoping that this will give me that little extra confidence that I needed to probably close off some other tournaments that I should have. This may just be what gets me started.
Q. Just as a follow, was there a little bit of an empty feeling not having won here until now after all this time?
TIM CLARK: You know, it really wasn't something I thought about a lot. You kind of think about it when you've got an 8- or 10-footer to win a tournament like I did on the 18th. But in everyday life it didn't affect me that much, no. I just knew that I had to keep playing how I play and keep working at my game and hope that one day it would happen.
Q. Was there anything different about the way you felt going through the back nine that was different than, say, Hope, Colonial, any of your other chances?
TIM CLARK: Yeah, I do think that the toughness of this golf course kept me more into just what I was doing, into the shots I needed to hit. You know, and in the past I've played a bit of golf on tougher golf courses, and I think that kept me calm. The course is that demanding that I just couldn't let up and I had to concentrate on every shot. Who knows, you know. I had the last two weeks off, and I didn't even hit golf balls. I didn't practice. I was playing so badly, I put the clubs away, and I just knew I needed to get away. I think the Saturday before coming out here I did go and hit some golf balls just to see if everything felt okay, and I changed something in my setup, and it just felt good. And I knew coming in here that my game would be good because I had the needed rest. And I think I just found something that clicked. I was somehow confident coming into this week considering I had just taken two weeks off and had played terrible my last few tournaments.
Q. This question may answer itself because you won, so I guess you could make a case for that proving that this is your best putting round ever. But looking back on the days you've putted lights-out, whether you had won or lost, whether Robert would have caught you or not, was this one of your best putting rounds if not the best?
TIM CLARK: Not just this round, the whole week in particular, the last two days is by far the best I've ever putted. Again, what I did in my golf swing, I did the same thing with my putter. I got a little bit more upright with the club in my golf swing and in the putter, and I just somehow got some confidence. It's just amazing when you feel like that what you can do. Another huge thing was the way I read the greens. I just felt like every read was spot-on, no matter what kind of putt I had, I felt like I was reading the greens. I guess that gives you a lot of confidence. Yeah, I've never felt like that on the greens ever.
Q. When you don't win, you get $205,000 or whatever it is, but not so much the $205,000 but the chances and you didn't close it. Did you within yourself, ask yourself or start wondering why can't I do this and what's wrong? And what answers did you come up with and what was different about today?
TIM CLARK: Yeah, no doubt. Obviously I think it's eight or nine seconds, and not all of them were tournaments I gave away. You know, there was really only -- I could only really think of -- one of the second places was one -- it was Colonial last year. That's the only one I can think that really disappointed me. But other than that, a lot of them I played good, just finished second. I think what disappointed me more was the times when I finished fifth or sixth and really should have won the tournament. You know, it's not just the second places. Sorry, what was the rest of the question?
Q. Just how much introspection, how much did you think to yourself what's wrong with me?
TIM CLARK: Yeah, particularly after Colonial, because I mean, that was one I had. And the year before I came second by shooting a great round on Sunday, and that was one where I was leading, and I mean, it's not rocket science. We just get out there and get ahead of ourselves, and you start thinking of the big picture and the win. And it could have easily happened today. I had a very similar putt on 18, and I knew I needed that putt, and I knew I needed it at the Colonial. You know, today I just trusted myself and just tried to get into that shot and tried and hit that shot as best as I could. That's really the whole key. I think in the past I've maybe been thinking about winning way too much and putting too much pressure on it; whereas, today I just went out and tried to hit every shot as good as I could and didn't worry what other guys were doing and didn't really worry what I was scoring.
Q. Robert was in here telling us about a conversation he had with you after the Hope where you said I can't win, I can't win, and he said, just be patient. Of course you end up beating him. Do you remember that conversation?
TIM CLARK: I've probably had that with a bunch of guys. (Laughter.) You know, Robert has won a lot of tournaments, but he's kind of gone through the same thing, I guess. He is someone I can talk to about it because he is going through it. It's easy to sit on the outside and make judgments and comments as to why guys aren't winning. But we're out there. He's in the same position I am, and we're trying hard, and it doesn't work. And then we're out there trying to fix what's wrong and why we aren't winning. I'm sure I had a conversation with him, and he's dead right. You've just got to get out and continue to play, continue to try hard and hope that it happens. Again, this may just be a big step for me. This one win could lead to others. And it's happened in the past, where a guy has taken a long time to win and then that one victory gives him the confidence to go ahead and win other tournaments.
Q. How did you get from Durban to North Carolina State?
TIM CLARK: Long story, but there was another South African who was at NC State at the time, and I was 19 years old in South Africa playing amateur golf and working in a pro shop and really wanted to do something else. I wanted to either play college golf or turn pro. And his father was nice enough to tell the coach about me. Yeah, I guess he called me up and said -- that's Coach Sykes at NC State. He's still there. I just did a fund raiser for them on Monday, so I saw all the guys this Monday. He gave me a scholarship for five months, and if I played good, I could stay, and if I didn't, I'd be on the next boat back home.
Q. Five months?
TIM CLARK: One semester, however long that is.
Q. When you were watching Robert's putt miss on 18 and you knew that that solidified your victory, it seemed like you were trying on purpose to be sort of subdued because there was no breakout smile. Were you so relieved it was over?
TIM CLARK: I couldn't watch it to be honest. I heard, and at the time I wasn't sure if it was his putt or Lee who had putted. I didn't want to jump my guns and go, yeah, yeah, I've won and then find myself in a playoff.
Q. Did somebody have to tell you?
TIM CLARK: Yeah, yeah, someone had to say, okay, that was Robert who putted. Obviously, I'm ecstatic to win, but it's tough to show too much excitement when another guy has missed a putt for you to win or what have you, even though it was a long putt. My excitement came out when I made that putt on 18, I think. That was a big relief.
Q. You said you were pretty focused on everything you were doing, kind of one shot at a time. But did 17 loom for you as you were playing the back nine, and can you talk a little bit about the scene there and how it felt once you got there?
TIM CLARK: I mean, 17, yeah, it looms every day you go there, be it Thursday or Friday. You miss a couple shots there Thursday or Friday, you're missing the cut. It's a tough hole under any circumstances. Again, today, I was -- you definitely get butterflies walking to that tee regardless of your position in the field, and I guess at the time I had the lead. I didn't look at the boards really until I finished. I mean, I knew I was in the lead, one-shot lead, but I didn't look at boards then. I mean, all I could do was pick my club and trust it again. That's all you can do on that hole. Luckily, it was a good number. I heard someone else say today they had good numbers every day on that hole, and I did this week. I just felt like it was a good, solid 9-iron, and it's easier to hit the shot when you're comfortable with the club you're hitting.
Q. Over the years we've seen different players get into a zone here from Davis Love to Stephen Ames to Henrik Stenson. Is there something about this course that sort of brings out the best in players on Sunday?
TIM CLARK: Ooh, I don't know. I mean, it's such a demanding course. I think if you get into a zone and shoot a good score, I mean, it's going to separate you a lot more. You know, it's a course that's so tough. If you're a little bit off, it's really going to show and you're going to shoot over par. You can still shoot a low number. These greens, like I said, rolled so great all week that you could make putts, and it wasn't easy to make putts, but if you were comfortable you could make putts. I think that's what brings the big separation. When you're playing great, and I guess that's a testament to the course, driving it in the fairway and hitting greens will pay off.
Q. Do you think there's any difference between being away from that final group like you were today? There were three or four groups behind you. And were you watching what was going on behind you?
TIM CLARK: There's definitely -- I think, there is a difference. I'm not sure how many of the last few champions, but it seems like the champion here always comes from a start earlier, none off the last group. It's just the course gets tougher and tougher, even if you're teeing off 20 minutes later than the guys, 30 minutes, the course just gets tougher and firmer. You know, yeah, probably a blessing that I wasn't in one of the last groups. I was fourth to the last group. But I wasn't watching what they were doing, no. I just knew I had to shoot a great round. Yeah, didn't pay attention to what the others were doing.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about the pressure? You're South African and you've established yourself as a pretty consistent Tour player, the pressure to win tournaments with the legacy of guys like Retief and Ernie and Gary and Trevor a couple years ago winning. Among fans back home, is there pressure on a guy like you?
TIM CLARK: No, not really. Obviously Ernie and Retief are guys I looked up to before coming out here and still guys I look up to. Obviously, what Trevor has done winning the Masters was a huge thing for South African golf. To be quite honest, I never considered myself in that league. I guess maybe it's a problem within me, but I think -- I didn't think I hit it far enough to be a top player on the Tour. You know, I think to get to that sort of level, top five in the world, you have to be able to hit it at least 270 yards. I'm getting in the gym, and I'll hopefully get there one day. I've just got to go out there and play how I can play. Again, maybe this week will show me that I can set my standards a little bit higher and from here on maybe try and achieve a little bit more.
Q. I know there's always going to be a debate about where this tournament fits in the scheme of things, but do you feel like you've won a major championship, even if it's not considered that right now?
TIM CLARK: I mean, it's definitely the biggest win I've had. (Laughter.) No, obviously this -- behind the majors this is the biggest tournament and the best field out there. You're always going to look at the history of the majors and whatnot. But this is certainly -- if there's a number five, this is it. This is just a huge honor and everything that comes with it. Yeah, it's a very proud day.
Q. Despite how well you putted, especially the last two days, how nervous did you feel over that last putt on 18?
TIM CLARK: You know, you're always going to get nervous, and it's really a case of what you do with those nerves. I was able to, I guess, turn it into positive energy and able to still focus on my line and my speed and my stroke. I guess it's the times when you're nervous and you're not able to do that that the nerves will show. But today I was able to stay in what I was doing even though being nervous.
Q. It looked like the first two or three holes today, judging speed was obviously really difficult because the greens were so much faster today. But after that it looked like you were pretty much in control of your game. Was there a point maybe later in the round where you were like, well, okay, we've got to tone it back a little bit?
TIM CLARK: Yeah, it was tough. When we teed off it was really windy. I figured just shoot even par would be a great score. You know, I don't know what 11-under finished at the end of the week, but in that sort of wind, I would have been happy with an even par score. As you saw, the first few holes I think it would have been tough for everyone just to judge the speed. The greens sped up that much and firmed up that much. But I think once I got used to that and started to hit some good shots, and I still didn't have a close birdie putt until the 7th hole. I mean, I was 30 feet all day just trying to two-putt. And then suddenly I got a few chances and made the putts, and that's when you can sort of build some confidence.
Q. You talked about not being the longest guy on the Tour. It would seem like your margin for error out here has got to be a lot smaller. You've got to be probably running 99 percent of capacity to win something like this, right?
TIM CLARK: Yeah, exactly. Just the first few days, the few times I did hit in the rough -- this is probably one of the best driving weeks I've had in a long time, too. When I was in the rough, be it if I had 100 yards or 200 yards, it was almost impossible. I was getting fliers, and I guess that's a good thing. This groove change is in there to do exactly that. It's a good thing for a guy like me. But yeah, I have to play perfect. I have to hit fairways. If I miss a fairway here, I'm in trouble. I guess a big part of why I've won this week is the way I drove the ball.
Q. Before today, what did you consider your most significant victory?
TIM CLARK: Hmm. I think probably the Pub Links, winning the U.S. Public Links because that qualified me for the Masters as an amateur. And to this day that's still probably the highlight of my career is playing Augusta as an amateur, albeit, I shot 79 or 81 whatever it was. But that's still the highlight. My parents came over to watch me, and that's the only time my dad has ever been outside of Africa, and my brother caddied for me. That's definitely the highlight.
Q. Who did you play with, do you remember?
TIM CLARK: First two rounds was -- I had played with Gary Player the first round. He made the cut that year, by the way. And then I played with Craig Stadler and Tim Simpson on Friday. But then professional wins, probably my first South African Open that I won in Durban.
Q. I think there was a reporter down in Australia saying you felt under-appreciated down in South Africa. Do you, and will that change now?
TIM CLARK: No, I take all that back. (Laughter.) I've had enough trouble from that comment.
Q. Seriously, what was the reaction to that?
TIM CLARK: It wasn't good, I guess. But that's not what I was saying. In Australia, just it seemed like guys were happy to have people travel all that way to play golf. But I've always felt great in South Africa. I love going back there and playing. All my friends are there still playing, and it's a great time for me. South Africa is still home. No, I certainly don't feel under appreciated there. You know, I just came to realize I'm probably fifth on the pecking order down there.
Q. I know this has just happened, but how do you think this win will change your view maybe of your career and the way others will view your career?
TIM CLARK: Well, I think had I not won a tournament and come to the end of my PGA Tour career, there would have been some issues. And I probably would have needed some help with that. That it's happened probably won't change me a whole lot. I think at the end of the day, these are tournaments that you do judge your career on, the Players Championship and majors. If I go on and win some majors, that will probably define my career. If I win eight or nine Tour events, it's not going to probably change me a whole lot. I'll drive nicer cars, though.
Q. I'd be curious, for the number of times you've contended in majors and played on Presidents Cup teams, were there weeks when let's say a lesser player won a tournament, did it ever bug you and say how come I can't do that?
TIM CLARK: A little bit, yeah, to be honest. There was a part of me that thought, man, what have I been doing? I've been -- when you play that many tournaments, and suddenly when you have weeks where you feel like you've played well enough to win and you haven't, it gets a bit frustrating. I mean, I'm always happy for guys when they win, don't get me wrong. It's not a case of what's he doing winning. I've always been very happy for guys when they've won, particularly people that I consider friends of mine. But, yeah, you do start to wonder when is it going to happen for me and what do I need to do to win, particularly when you feel like you've played well enough to win and you haven't. I guess that's the nature of this game. Sometimes you don't have to play your best to win tournaments. I think luckily for me this week I did play my best. That's about as good as I can play.
Q. On the card, if you can go over it, I actually just wanted to ask you about 11 in particular, the bunker shot back there.
TIM CLARK: 11, the par-5? Yeah, I mean, I hit a great drive down there, again, and just got myself in a position where I had to go for the green there. It wasn't -- I think I had 222 to the front, 250 to the hole. Unfortunately, off the down-slope I knew I probably couldn't keep it on the green. It was one of those where either I hit it short or I hit a great shot and it's going to go over the back of the green. I literally knew I wasn't keeping it on the green. I don't mind bunker shots, so I was quite happy if it went over the back into that bunker. I knew I'd be playing back into the wind and would probably have enough green to play the shot.
Yeah, same thing, really, went for 16. I was close enough where there was no lay-up. It was the shot to go for. In the past -- I try and play the par-5s smart. If I don't feel like I can hit on the green and if I feel like I'm not going to leave it in a spot where I can get it up-and-down, I'm invariably going to lay it up and get it to 50, 60, 70, 80 yards, which I fell is my strength. And on those two par-5s today I had to go for it and hit the shots. You know, it worked on 11, and 16, I probably should have birdied 16. But, again, I'm just happy with the way I played the hole.
Q. Is there another course where you can go for so many par-5s?
TIM CLARK: Well, I haven't really been able to go for that many this week. I'm not sure of the numbers that I went for. But today was the second day I went for 16 and only the first -- yeah, it was the second day that I went for 11, too. I don't go at these par-5s every day. I kind of pick my spots. You can short side yourself here and have an impossible up-and-down, potentially bringing in 6. Whereas, I feel like from 60, 70 yards I'm at least going to give myself 10 feet for birdie.
Q. Talk about the second shot on 7, that bunker shot. That kind of kick started that whole stretch.
TIM CLARK: Oh, yeah, okay. Yeah, I pulled my tee shot there. And, again, not the worst miss because where that flag is I need to be up the left side of that fairway to have any chance. By going in that bunker I knew I had an avenue to run the ball up for my second shot. In the end it wasn't as tough of a shot as it may have --
Q. Was it pretty straightforward fairway bunker shot?
TIM CLARK: Uh-huh. It was a 4-iron, but...
Q. Are you going to be drinking more than Coke by the end of the night?
TIM CLARK: Maybe. (Laughter.)
MODERATOR: Tim, thanks so much, and congratulations. Thank you.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.