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Golf Today 29th February
Nigel Lane becomes first cart using Australian
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Darren Clarke now sets aims even higher
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Darren Clarke jumps to 14th in World Rankings

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Clarke now sets aims even higher

Tiger Woods realised in infancy he was destined to become a great golfer.

Darren Clarke preferred rugby union before discovering he could strike a golf ball straight enough to earn a comfortable living.

Woods equalled Ben Hogan's winning streak of six tournaments in a row this year and could conceivably eclipse the achievements of any of the other giants of the game.

Clarke is widely regarded as a talented under-achiever whose comfortable build betrays his dislike for physical exercise and fondness for a pint.

Yet on Sunday it was the amiable Northern Irishman, a 20-1 outsider, who prevailed over the world number one in the Andersen Consulting Match Play Championship in Carlsbad, California.

Clarke, who shares coach Butch Harmon with Woods, produced a series of dazzling iron shots to trounce the world number one 4 and 3 in the 36-hole final.

"Darren has the ability to play great golf," Woods said. "It's just dependent on how dedicated he is to the work ethic.

"Butch has been trying to get him to work a little harder."

No one has ever questioned Clarke's talent.

Without the benefit of a formal lesson, he had a handicap of plus three by the age of 17.

Clarke, 31, turned professional 10 years ago but to date has won only five European tour events although he has consistently finished high up the leaderboard.

"I am happy-go-lucky most of the time," he said in a newspaper interview. "Part of it is the Irish thing, wanting to go and have a pint every now and then.

"That doesn't quite fit into the professional golfer mould. The professional golfer shouldn't have any time to go to the bar.

"But I find I have got to take a little bit of time away from it, have a pint or two and still relax a little bit. I can't change it. That is the way I am."

Clarke may not work hard at his physical conditioning but he does practise hard.

Although out-driven on almost every hole on Sunday his precision with his irons set him up for five birdies in eight holes in Sunday's afternoon session.

Before play began, Clarke shouted out to Harmon; "I don't think I'll be needing you today."

His confidence was justified.

"Was I surprised?" Woods asked rhetorically. "No, not at all because Darren has played like this all week. He's played beautifully. He's played a lot of good solid shots all week and he's putted well.

"That's a tough combination to try and beat when you're not playing as well as you would like."

Clarke won a million dollars and jumped five places to 14th in the world rankings after Sunday's heroics.

"My next aim is to get into the top 10," he said. "And I'd obviously like to win a major."


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