Darren Clarke Ends 20-Year Wait for British Open Golf Title, First Major
Darren Clarke’s long wait is finally over. He has his British Open championship.
Northern Ireland’s Clarke overcame challenges from Americans Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson yesterday to win by three shots at Royal St. George’s in Sandwich, England. It was his first major title and came in his 20th appearance at golf’s oldest championship.
“It’s been a dream since I was a kid to win the Open, like any kid’s dream is, and I’m able to do it,” Clarke said at a news conference. “It just feels incredible, incredible right now.”
Clarke shot even-par 70 to finish with a score of 5-under 275. The 42-year-old breaks Nick Price’s record for most appearances at the Open before a first victory. Price won the 1994 title in his 15th try.
He’s also is the oldest player to win the British Open since Roberto de Vicenzo, who was 44 when he won in 1967, and the oldest major winner since 43-year-old Ben Crenshaw took the title at the 1995 Masters Tournament.
Four-time major champ Mickelson, who’s never won the Open, shot 68 and Johnson, playing in the final group with Clarke, finished with a 72. Mickelson reached 6-under at one point, though made four bogeys over the final eight holes to fall out of contention.
“When I saw Darren wasn’t going to make a mistake, and he played some great golf, I had to start trying to make birdies and that’s when I ended up making a couple bogeys,” Mickelson told reporters.
Northern Irish Success
Clarke is the third Northern Irishman to win in the last six major championships after Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy at the past two U.S. Opens. He’s also the sixth consecutive non- American major winner, extending the longest run in history.
“We’ve been lucky,” he said. “To have three major champions from such a little small place in a short period of time, it’s just incredible.”
Clarke was playing in his 54th major tournament. The victory will push him into the top 30 of the world ranking.
Clarke’s previous best result at the Open was a tie for second at Royal Troon in 1997. That started a run of six top-10 finishes over his next 17 majors. Since then the closest he’d come to winning a major was tying for 11th place at Troon in the 2004 Open.
Clarke earned 900,000 pounds ($1.45 million) for the victory. He also earned a bonus of 2 million pounds from Dunlop Sport, one of his sponsors, according to his agent Chubby Chandler.
Mickelson started quickly with three birdies over the first six holes and then eagled the par-5 seventh hole to pull into a tie with Clarke at 5-under.
Clarke, playing three groups behind, would regain the lead at 7-under with his own eagle at No. 7. Mickelson then birdied the 10th, but that was as close as the left-hander would get.
After his eagle, Clarke made nine straight pars though no one was able to make a move on him. Johnson did birdie the 12th to get into a tie at 5-under with Mickelson, who had bogeyed the 11th.
Mickelson then fell out of contention with bogeys at the 13th, 15th and 16th holes, while missing a birdie putt on 14. Johnson also fell by the wayside when he hit his second shot out of bounds on the 14th and took a double bogey to fall to 3- under.
“It was tough,” Johnson told reporters. “I played well enough to get it done today but just didn’t hole the putts at the right time.”
Clarke bogeyed his final two holes but it wasn’t enough to prevent him for taking the Claret Jug.
Five-time champion Tom Watson finished 2-over par yesterday and 6-over for the tournament. The 61-year-old also had a hole- in-one two days ago on the sixth hole.
McIlroy, who was favorite coming in after setting 12 records while winning the U.S. Open last month, finished 7-over for the tournament.
“It’s been a tough week for me,” the 22-year-old told reporters. “I’m disappointed with the way I finished, but I’ll just have to wait until next year to try and make a good run at this tournament.”
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