You once said that your public image was that of “a normal bloke who liked a pint of Guinness.”
Yes, that’s just me. People seem to like me. I haven’t changed, have I? [Smiles]
Do you realize how popular your Open victory was?
The anti-athletic poster boy, oh yes [laughs]. I’m not your stereotypical golf athlete rolling off the production line. I’m a bit different. So people identify with me, and that’s great—the reception I’ve had has been wonderful.
How did you manage to block out your emotions on Sunday at St. George’s?
My only thoughts were about the next shot. Until I got onto the 17th tee and I had a four-shot lead. Then I was thinking, “Right, just be sensible here, protect this lead and don’t do anything stupid.”
Did the pressure of playing in the 2006 Ryder Cup help? [Clarke played six weeks after his wife, Heather, died of cancer.]
Without a shadow of a doubt. Nothing will ever replicate the K Club in 2006. That was pressure. That wasn’t just pressure for me playing, it was pressure performing for my peers.
If you had ended your career without a major, would you have felt something was missing?
Would I have been annoyed and disappointed without winning a major? Yes. I have always felt I have enough talent to win at least one major.
Is there a danger of thinking, “Job done”?
Yeah, totally. “Give up, that’s enough.” I don’t know if there are more majors in me, but I’d like to put myself into position to find out.
You must have a lot of sympathy for your friend, Lee Westwood, who’s still looking for major no. 1.
I feel for Lee. He has gotten close so many times. The game is fickle. It hammers you, then gives you something. It’s tough on Lee, with Rory winning and then me winning. But [Westwood] will be thinking that if I can do it, so can he.
You’ve known Rory McIlroy since he was 12. Do you see him as a history-making game changer?
Yes, because he has so much talent. Because of the way he won [the U.S. Open] at Congressional. It wasn’t just that he won; it was the way that he won. He ripped the course apart and blew everybody away. There are very few people who have the talent to destroy that field like he did. Remember, he’s only 22. He’s got all the shots. He just doesn’t always hit them [smiles]. His name will be on that Claret Jug before too long.
What’s next for you?
I need to sit down and figure out what my goals are, because I’ve tried to win that trophy since I was a kid. Now that I’ve done it, I need to reassess. Whether that’s to win more majors or not, I don’t know. I’m going to have a good, long think about it. I never thought I was getting toward the end of my career, because I lost a lot of my mid-thirties when I wasn’t competing. I have a wonderful opportunity to keep playing in the biggest tournaments.
A Ryder Cup captaincy must be a certainty now, right?
Well, I would never be so presumptuous as to say that, but I hope to be captain one day.
How about 2016 at Hazeltine? You’ll be 48.
That’s up to the selection committee. But it would be an honor. Whatever they offer me, I would do.
After your Open win, you’re bigger than ever in America.
[Laughs] I can’t afford to get too much bigger, or I’ll have to call my tailor. Americans have always been very kind to me. They even throw me cigars.
You’re not as large as some people think.
Yes, wide-screen television is very bad.