Darren Clarke held off spirited charges from Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson yesterday to claim the 151st British Open and with it, his first victory in a major.
The 42-year-old Northern Irishman took a one-shot lead into the final day over Johnson, who started sloppily with bogeys at both the 4th and 6th holes. Mickelson, however, set off like a train with birdies at the 2nd, 4th, 6th, and 10th, alongside an eagle at the Par 5 7th. All this, meant Clarke could not afford to sit back and wait for those around him to fall away and responded with some strong golf, rescuing a great opening par at the first and a birdie at the 2nd before bogeying the 4th.
Clarke then matched Mickelson’s eagle on the 7th to take him to 7 under, before Mickelson missed a short par putt 11th and followed this up with further bogeys on the 13th, 15th and 16th as he fell away from contention. However, Johnson came back at Clarke with birdies on the 7th, 10th and 12th but when a layup attempt on the par 5 14th went horrendously wrong, drifting out of bounds to the right, it was as if the title was destined for Clarke.
Clarke, who had his share of luck, twice fortuitously bouncing over hazardous pot bunkers, strung 9 pars together after his eagle at the 7th to leave him with a comfortable lead with two to play. Despite bogeys at the last two holes, he held on for the win and admitted:
“The last couple of holes, I was trying not to make any really stupid mistakes”.
Clarke dedicated the win to his two sons, Tyrone and Conor, who began their day playing a round at Royal Portrush back in Northern Ireland, before watching Dad secure his biggest career victory in the afternoon. Clarke said afterwards, “If it hadn’t come off and I hadn’t won, I could still have said I did my best. I ask my two boys to do their best and that’s what they do, so I think their dad should try do the same.”
Clarke, a man noted for his extravagant celebrations, is meant to be joining Weight Watchers this week and admitted it could well be “a bad week” for him to start as “there’s five points in a pint of Guiness.”
Tel: +44 131 226 4309