Clarke joins golf's immortals at Sandwich

 

Golf:Darren Clarke carved his name into golfing immortality and on to the Claret Jug at Royal St George’s this afternoon with a stunning three-shot win in the 140th staging of the British Open to become the oldest winner of the tournament since 1967.

The 42-year-old from Dungannon held off everything that both the elements and opposition could throw at him to close with a 70 in tough conditions to win by four shots from the American duo of Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson.

Clark becomes Ireland’s fifth Major winner and fourth from Ulster stretching back to Fred Daly’s initial win at the 1947 British Open at Hoylake.

Following on from Rory McIlroy’s win at the US Open in Washington last month and Graeme McDowell’s victory at Pebble Beach last year, it now means that three of the last six Majors have been won by golfers from the province.

Clarke, playing the 54th major of his career but without a top 10-finish in them for a decade, set a new record by winning the Open at his 20th attempt, while only dropped shots at the last two holes prevented him from becoming just the sixth player to shoot four rounds in the 60s in championship history.

He had to save par from 18ft at the first after leaving a nervous first putt well short, but birdied the next from five feet and recovered from a bogey at the fourth in style with an eagle from 20 feet on the par-five seventh.

That took him back to two ahead of Mickelson, who had eagled the same hole 25 minutes earlier on his way to a brilliant front nine of 30, but the left-hander cut the gap to one with another birdie on the 10th.

Mickelson’s challenge ended with four dropped shots in the next six holes and it was left to Johnson to take up the fight with birdies at 10 and 12.

However, the 27-year-old again proved susceptible to pressure — he took a three-shot lead into the final round of last year’s US Open but shot 82 — by carving his second shot out of bounds on the par-five 14th to run up a double-bogey seven.

That left Clarke with plenty of breathing space and he could afford to bogey the last two holes and still claim an impressive victory.

US Open champion Rory McIlroy brought a disappointing week to an end with a three-over-par 73 to finish the tournament on seven over.

Playing partner Sergio Garcia took the early clubhouse lead with a 68 to end on two over, while English amateur Tom Lewis took the silver medal after he finished with a 74 for nine over, three shots better than America’s Peter Uihlein.

FINAL SCORES

(British and Irish unless stated, par 70):

275Darren Clarke 68 68 69 70

278Dustin Johnson (USA) 70 68 68 72, Phil Mickelson (USA) 70 69 71 68

279Thomas Bjorn (Den) 65 72 71 71

280Anthony Kim (USA) 72 68 70 70, Chad Campbell (USA) 69 68 74 69, Rickie Fowler (USA) 70 70 68 72

281Raphael Jacquelin (Fra) 74 67 71 69

282Davis Love III (USA) 70 68 72 72, Sergio Garcia (Esp) 70 70 74 68, Simon Dyson 68 72 72 70

283Steve Stricker (USA) 69 71 72 71, Lucas Glover (USA) 66 70 73 74, Martin Kaymer (Ger) 68 69 73 73

284George Coetzee (Rsa) 69 69 72 74

285Zach Johnson (USA) 72 68 71 74, Fredrik Jacobson (Swe) 70 70 73 72, Charl Schwartzel (Rsa) 71 67 75 72, Richard Green (Aus) 70 71 73 71, Webb Simpson (USA) 66 74 72 73, YE Yang (Kor) 71 69 73 72

286Anders Hansen (Den) 69 69 72 76, Tom Watson (USA) 72 70 72 72, Tom Lehman (USA) 71 67 73 75

287 Rory McIlroy71 69 74 73, Adam Scott (Aus) 69 70 73 75, Miguel Angel Jimenez (Esp) 66 71 72 78

288Charles Howell III (USA) 71 70 73 74, Ryan Moore (USA) 69 74 76 69

289Jason Day (Aus) 71 70 76 72, Seung-yul Noh (Kor) 69 72 75 73, Ryan Palmer (USA) 68 71 72 78, Gary Woodland (USA) 75 68 74 72, Bubba Watson (USA) 69 72 74 74, Tom Lewis (am) 65 74 76 74, Stewart Cink (USA) 70 71 77 71, Pablo Larrazabal (Esp) 68 70 76 75

290Robert Rock 69 71 74 76, Gary Boyd 71 70 76 73, Trevor Immelman (Rsa) 70 72 72 76, Jeff Overton (USA) 68 71 78 73, Yuta Ikeda (Jpn) 69 71 75 75, Simon Khan 71 72 77 70

291Spencer Levin (USA) 72 69 81 69, Kyle Stanley (USA) 68 72 77 74, Justin Rose 72 70 79 70, K J Choi (Kor) 71 72 75 73

292Peter Uihlein (am) (USA) 71 71 75 75, Robert Allenby (Aus) 69 72 75 76, Jim Furyk (USA) 72 70 76 74, Floris De Vries (Ned) 70 73 76 73, Richard McEvoy 69 72 75 76, Gregory Bourdy (Fra) 73 70 77 72

293Rory Sabbatini (Rsa) 71 70 77 75, Paul Casey 74 69 78 72, Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa) 72 70 74 77

294Ricky Barnes (USA) 68 74 78 74, Stephen Gallacher 70 71 77 76, Bill Haas (USA) 72 70 79 73, Bo Van Pelt (USA) 73 69 73 79, Fredrik Andersson Hed (Swe) 68 75 77 74, Gregory Havret (Fra) 72 71 78 73

296Joost Luiten (Ned) 73 69 79 75, Matthew Millar (Aus) 71 72 80 73, Mark Wilson (USA) 74 68 75 79

297Paul Lawrie 73 70 81 73, Edoardo Molinari (Ita) 69 74 76 78

298Henrik Stenson (Swe) 72 71 75 80

299Harrison Frazar (USA) 72 70 77 80

301Kenneth Ferrie 71 71 76 83

304Jung-Gon Hwang (Kor) 68 74 83 79

DARREN CLARKE FACTFILE

1968:Born Dungannon, Northern Ireland, August 14th

1990:Becomes Spanish amateur champion and Irish amateur champion before turning professional

1992:Scores a European Tour record-equalling round of 60 in Monte Carlo.

1993:Claims his first European Tour win at the Alfred Dunhill Open. Goes on to finish eighth on the Order of Merit.

1996:Secures his second Tour victory at the German Masters and again finishes eighth on the Order of Merit.

1997:Runner-up at the Open to Justin Leonard, but goes on to make his Ryder Cup debut and end the year fourth on the Order of Merit.

1998:European Tour victories at the Benson & Hedges International Open and the Volvo Masters help him finish second on the Order of Merit.

1999:Completes another round of 60 this time at The K Club. Later in the year he wins the English Open and goes on to make his second Ryder Cup appearance.

2000:Beats Tiger Woods in the final of WGC-Accenture Match Play and then retains his English Open title in June.

2001:Finishes third in the Open Championship, but lifts titles in South Africa, Ireland and Japan

2002:Wins his third English Open title and makes his third Ryder Cup appearance.

2003:Wins WGC-NEC Invitational in Akron and finishes runner-up on the Order of Merit.

2004:A fourth Ryder Cup appearance is followed by a second career title in Japan at the Taiheiyo Masters.

2005:Successfully defends his Taiheiyo Masters crown.

2006:Makes an emotional fifth appearance at the Ryder Cup, just six weeks after his wife Heather dies of breast cancer. Clarke won all three of his games at The K Club to help Europe claim victory.

2008:Ends almost five years without a European Tour win by lifting the KLM Open title.

2010:Named non-playing Ryder Cup vice-captain for Europe’s victorious campaign.

2011:July 17 — Wins The Open Championship at Royal St George’s at the 20th attempt.