Coach Cowen talked Darren Clarke 'off the shelf' before Open
Darren Clarke's sensational British Open victory at Sandwich last year ranks high among the glorious mysteries of modern golf. The Northern Irishman's failure to perform anywhere close to his true potential ever since is as perplexing as any psychological thriller.
But renowned coach Pete Cowen has given an intriguing insight into Clarke's stunning transformation from Prince of Darkness into Open champion at Royal St George's, as he lifted his first Major title in stunning fashion.
The venerable Yorkshireman joined Clarke (43) on the stage at the European Tour's Annual Prizegiving Banquet in London to receive the inaugural Special Achievement Award.
Luke Donald was voted European Players' Player of the Year, but Clarke was the story of the season. And this was especially true considering the depth of Clarke's despair at 7.30am on the Tuesday of Open week when he was the first player to appear on the range.
"Darren arrived looking as if his pet dog had died. His caddie, John, was about 30 yards behind and he wasn't speaking to him either," said Cowen.
"So, I said: 'Morning Darren, you alright?'.
"No I'm f*****g not!"
'What's wrong then?'
"I'm hitting it fat, hitting it thin. I'm hitting it left, hitting it right. I've no control of the ball flight. I'm wasting my time and I can't f*****g putt.'
'So, it's going to be a good week, then, Darren!'
"Luckily," Cowen continued, "I've talked him down off the shelf a few times and after about two hours, he was giving exhibitions on how to hit a low cut and a low draw with a driver.
"Yet at the end of it he said 'Still can't f*****g putt, so there's no point in playing.'
"He spoke to (psychologist) Dr Bob Rotella, who managed to sort him out.
"I've never seen Darren as calm (during a tournament) as that week. Never! I don't know where it came from. Unfortunately, he's not been able to recreate it," Cowen concluded.
"That's a bit of an understatement, Pete," sighed Clarke.
Senior PGA Championship,
Live, Sky Sports 2, 6.0
Crowne Plaza Invitational,
Live, Sky Sports 2, 8.0