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17 Jul 2012 09:25
Darren Clarke has returned the Claret Jug to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club ahead of the 141st British Open, without taking a single drink from it. (Getty)
The 43-year-old Northern Irishman, who claimed the symbol of British Open supremacy last year at Royal St George's, never poured a drop into the famed container.
"Not at any stage did I put any fluid in it at all, nothing," Clarke said. "It just is too special a trophy.
I have so much respect for the Open and I couldn't get myself to do it.
Clarke admits the replica version, which he gets to keep, received quite a drinking workout and added, "I don't need to have a jug to drink out of."
Clarke took the Jug to South Korea and Australia among his many stops in the year since the most magical moment of his 23-year career
"It has been here, there and everywhere," Clarke said.
"It's one of those iconic trophies people see on television but never actually physically get to see, but a lot of people did and they all enjoyed it as much as I did."
Clarke's journey put only put a few dents into the cherished chalice.
"It's not quite in as good a condition as I received it," Clarke admitted. "No I didn't drop it and not in my possession. I shall say no more. It was nothing to do with me. It's not that bad. It's fine.
Peter Dawson, chief executive of the Royal and Ancient, accepted the Jug without recoiling at the damage.
"Mr Dawson looked at it and said, 'Oh, we can fix that, we can fix this,' so it's not too bad," Clarke said.
Clarke refused to pass judgement on what past holders have done with the Cup, notably Stewart Cink's passing around drinks from it and filling it with barbecue sauce.
But after taking the prize he had sought since first swinging a golf club, Clarke never gave in to the temptation it provided.
"I just decided that the trophy was too special for me to put anything into it," Clarke said.
'Bit of a trap'
"I was tempted on the Sunday evening and the Monday evening and the Tuesday evening and the Wednesday evening and for about two weeks afterwards. I never managed to put anything into it. I just thought, no, I can't do it."
Clarke has struggled on the course since his major victory, pushing himself to follow up on his Open crown.
"I've certainly fallen into a little bit of a trap of trying to play better, and trying too hard as opposed to just going and playing," he said. "I got a little caught up and tried too hard. I want to win again. I want to win the big tournaments. I just pushed myself too hard to do that."
A year ago, Clarke was given a spot in the champions locker room beside Tom Watson, filling in after a late withdrawal by Greg Norman. This time, he is back on the champions side when getting ready to play.
"I've earned my place in that part of the locker room this time," he said. – Sapa-AFP
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