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Clarke's rocky road ends in Open redemption

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Rob Hodgetts | 21:59 UK time, Sunday, 17 July 2011

Sandwich

All good things come to those who wait and Darren Clarke has waited longer than anyone.

The genial Northern Irishman finally reaped the rewards of the talent which has promised so much over the years but which was in danger of remaining unfulfilled.

Clarke's stunning Open victory at Royal St George's came at his 20th attempt, a new record for the number of appearances before a win in the event.

The 42-year-old, playing in his 54th major, is of a generation of players that were on the verge of being labelled "the past", given the exploits of the young guns, led by 22-year-old Rory McIlroy.

And he was becoming the forgotten man of Northern Irish golf after the US Open successes of McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.


Darren Clarke looks at the Claret Jug as he celebrates with a pint of Guinness at his media conference

Clarke celebrates with a pint of Guinness as he savours his Open victory. Picture: Getty

But this is the vindication for a man who has weathered his share of life's storms, but kept his eye on the prize and not lost his belief, even if he needed reminding of it once in a while.

"You know, bad times in golf are more frequent than good times," he said. "And there are times when I've been completely and utterly fed up with the game. But friends and family say, 'get out there and practice and keep going' and that's why I'm here now.

"It feels pretty amazing. It's been a dream since I was kid to win the Open, like it is for any kid, and finally to do it feels incredible."

Clarke's road has been a rocky one, despite being among the world's elite in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He finished second in the Open at Royal Troon in 1997 and was third in 2001, while in 2000 he beat Tiger Woods, already well on his way to greatness, to win the World Match Play title.

But some lean years followed before he was hit with the news that would tear his world apart and redefine his life. His wife Heather was diagnosed with breast cancer and passed away in 2006, leaving Clarke to bring up his two young boys Tyrone and Conor alone.

Just a month after her death, Clarke accepted a wildcard to play on his fifth European Ryder Cup team at the K Club in Dublin. What followed was one of the most emotional weeks in sport as Clarke, swept on a wave of sympathy, helped his side to victory.

The man from Dungannon had always been popular, with the public and fellow pros alike. A man the fans could identify with, not a gym-obsessed robot. A man who liked a drink and a smoke and carried a bit of weight. Downing a pint of Guinness on the K Club balcony in celebration only served to reinforce the image. Clarke could, though, be irascible with the media, but he insists he has mellowed now.

In the years that followed, he moved his young family from London back to Portrush in Northern Ireland, described by his mother in the wake of victory at Royal St George's as "the best decision of his life".

With his sons settled, he was able to move forward with his own life and met former model Alison Campbell. The couple, who embraced on the 18th green after his victory, are now engaged. But Clarke was quick to talk of Heather, saying: "In terms of what's going through my heart there's obviously somebody who is watching down from up there, and I know she'd be very proud of me. She'd probably be saying 'I told you so'."

But despite happiness returning off the course, there was nothing in Clarke's sporadic recent form to suggest he was about to break his major duck.

He won twice in 2008 and achieved two runners-up places in 2010. And he made another return to the Ryder Cup as one of Colin Montgomerie's vice-captains in the victorious match at Celtic Manor last year.

Behind the scenes Clarke, who set up with fledgling agent Chubby Chandler in 1990 on nothing more than a handshake, continued to develop his own foundation and mentor younger players in the burgeoning ISM stable.

But after working hard with his swing coach Pete Cowen, long-time performance guru Dr Bob Rotella and life coach Mike Finnigan, he forced his way back into the winners' circle two months ago with a win in Majorca. True to form, Clarke treated all the passengers on his budget airline to free drinks on his way home.

But Clarke was in danger of being left behind after his young protégé McIlroy and countryman McDowell. At a recent party they chided him, saying "pull your finger out" and win a major.

Coming into the Open, Clarke said to long-time friend Ken Brown, the BBC commentator, that he was playing well, "but can I keep my head together?" Brown told him to let his attitude dictate his game, not the other way around.

Leading by one going into the final round after profiting from the luck of the draw in dodging Saturday's bad weather, Clarke received texts from - among others - McIlroy, reiterating what Clarke had said to him before he won the US Open at Congressional, and Woods, who has become a firm friend.

He need not have worried about keeping his head as he made serene progress around a Royal St George's course that had spat out some of the world's best. Smiling and acknowledging the crowd at every opportunity he seemed to be savouring an unexpected return to the spotlight, maybe aware, like stablemate Lee Westwood is finding, that the chance to win majors is rare.

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"It's been a long journey, I'm not getting any younger," said Clarke, who was given 1993 champion Greg Norman's locker when he arrived at Royal St George's at the start of the week. "But you know I got here in the end. It may be the only major I win, it may not be the only major I win. But at least I went out and did my best, and my best was good enough. I ask my boys to do their best and I can't ask for anymore. So I think their dad should try and do the same."

Clarke added: "I'm just a normal guy, playing golf, having a bit of fun." Whether that fun includes the weight watchers programme Chandler has him booked on this week is another thing. "It's a really bad week for me to start," he laughed as he vowed to fill the Claret Jug with Guinness.

The 140th Open will be remembered as the one where we expected McIlroy to cement his growing reputation, or one of the world's top two Luke Donald or Westwood to prove themselves worthy of their ranking and finally break England's major drought.

But it became a story of old stagers, such as Thomas Bjorn bouncing back to extinguish bad memories of eight years previously, and Tom Watson continuing his remarkable affinity with the tournament; of Americans proving they are still a mighty force in world golf, of new young thrusters like 20-year-old English amateur Tom Lewis.

And of the weather and how much it is part and parcel of an Open Championship. It also continued the remarkable tale of a small country supplying three of the last six major winners.

But mostly it was about redemption, the culmination of one man's lifelong dream in the face of adversity and the power of positive thinking.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Love the guy, his attitude to life and his openness and generosity. So great to see a nice guy win. Well done Darren.

  • Comment number 2.

    so great to see Darren win one at last, one of life's good guys who seen more than his fair share of tough times...well done on keeping it all together under the pressure of the likes of Mickleson et al on the final day...nothing less than you deserve

  • Comment number 3.

    One of the most popular wins by any golfer ever. A down to earth bloke we can all identify with. So pleased for him and his family.

  • Comment number 4.

    Well Done Big D! Proof that everything comes to those who wait and that nice guys can win. What a performance by the big fella... after achieveing so much in his career and having to deal with personal tragedy, many people thought his best days were behind him. He looked destined to belong to a group of players who had the ability, and deserved to win a major, but just never made it happen. Thankfully he still believed in his own ability, and managed to get it done when the opportunity presented itself.... Yes there have been several players over the years who deserved to win majors, but few would disagree that no-one deserved it more than Darren Clarke. Has there ever been a more popular winner among fans and fellow pros alike?

  • Comment number 5.

    Many predicted more Major wins for Northern Ireland, none would have thought they would come from anyone other than McIlroy and McDowell! Having said that, Darren is someone that all players and fans are truly delighted for, he really did earn it with excellent play in difficult conditions. He always comes across a genuine and thoughtful guy, well done Darren and enjoy your party, you deserve it!

  • Comment number 6.

    Congrats NI golf: home of the macs...Wee Mac, G Mac and dare I say 'Big Mac'?!
    Awesome day, awesome result for an awesome guy - Congrats Darren Clarke!

  • Comment number 7.

    Couldn't agree more with the congratulations towards Northern Irish golf. 3 out of the last 6 is an incredible achievement.. http://jackhayward1989.wordpress.com/2011/07/17/the-british-open-2011-final-day-darren-the-darling-of-sandwich-sunday/

  • Comment number 8.

    weldone DC I shade a tear today but only in thinking what a great country wee live in with such Giants as Rory GMac and Now the king of them all Dazza as a fellow Tyrone man I'm on top of the world!!!!! Thanks for four fantastic days

  • Comment number 9.

    An emotional win for Darren, and for many others too. He played four beautiful rounds on a very difficult course and looked so calm throughout!

    Three Irish wins in 13 months, can't believe it!

  • Comment number 10.

    Well done Darren Clarke, such a legend. Great year for the Europeans

  • Comment number 11.

    Well done Darren. Well done N. Ireland. To have 3 different major champions out of the last 6 played is beyond belief. If you throw Harrington into the mix that's 6 major wins for Ireland in the past few years. He kept his game (and head) while all the others around him were losing theirs. I don't think there is anyone who would begrudge him this win. Gareth Maybin, the pressure is on.

  • Comment number 12.

    Shame The Open has to be played on a links course as there are so many great courses in Britain.

  • Comment number 13.

    Well done DC -- a heartwarming win (and a deserved one as well).

  • Comment number 14.

    No ifs, buts or maybes!..... just Well Done, Darren!

  • Comment number 15.

    Brilliant victory and hard well grafted golf in tough conditions on a par 70 course! Interesting as ever that with all the incredible build up across the multitude of media types we now have access to, there was so much pre tournament analysis but NOBODY picked Darren out. The pre tournament hype is pointless and only serves to make people look stupid afterwards. Let the game do the talking from now on, and just watch it unfurl like we used to do. Top Victory

  • Comment number 16.

    truely a great result for golf and for all those other nearly 40 year olds still thinking about winning a major....

    however its is now tme to bring the Open Championship to NI.. its embarrassing tat we have 3 major winners AND different Major winners and two of the top ten golf courses in the world as voted by every expert in the land and all the R&Acan say is that there isn't enough infrastructure... thsi is ludicrous,,,, its coded speak for ' we are frightened to go there because of the idiots who throw stones at each other...come on R&A get real,, tell you what. wht dont our major champions just boycott playing the OPEN till it happens...

  • Comment number 17.

    The weird thing about this open was that it seemed to be a better place without Woods being there - long may he stay away!!!

  • Comment number 18.

    My son and I met Darren at Golf Live this year when my son asked for an autograph. He couldn't have been more friendly and approachable. A true champion on and off the course!

  • Comment number 19.

    A good man has finally succeeded in a life long dream well done Darren

  • Comment number 20.

    Well done Darren.. Such a well deserved victory for someone we all identify with. You've got so much talent mate. The way you handled that course and those conditions with your shot making skills was stunning. Time now to enjoy the after glow.!!

  • Comment number 21.

    Does the BBC honestly think that the 99% of sports fans are that bothered about Mr Tevez, so why the hell is Carlos Tevez an overpaid etc etc footballer the top story on the BBC Sports page and not Darren Clarke!!!!!

  • Comment number 22.

    Well I was sure DC's best days had gone having followed him a few times at events over the last couple of years.

    How you play golf though is often a barometer of your personal happiness and DC has clearly gotten back into a great place after the last few years.

    More likely his only Major though. 4 excellent rounds, a calm head, luck of the draw, few members' bounces etc. showed Rory what it means to comes from a links background and not moan that it was 'the weather wot did for me'.

    A popular and worthy winner. Congratulations Darren

  • Comment number 23.

    In the days where sporting heroes are further away from the fans who idolise them what a treat it is to see such a decent guy achieve such deserved success. And that sandwich course is no picnic! You need to be to heroic to win there and and Darren was certainly that. Well played, sir!

  • Comment number 24.

    Well done Big D, thoroughly deserved. What a pity though, that the Beeb couldn't recognise him as the British winner they have been craving - had it been Westwood or Donald, they would have been beside themselves

  • Comment number 25.

    Great win for Darren Clarke. It's always nice to have a popular champion. :)

    Too bad there was very little excitement in the final round. Darren play "ok" as he said himself, but where were the challengers ? A brief moment came when Phil Mickelson threatened with a great front nine, but after that it was all too easy.
    Player of the tournament was, for me, Tom Watson. He proves beyond doubt that the greats of the past were, and in his case, still are, better than the so-called greats of today.
    Remember, Tom Watson was a legend when Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Padraig Harrington, Ian Poulter, Graham McDowell and Ross Fisher were still in nappies. Those wanabees didn't even make the cut !

  • Comment number 26.

    Chubby booked Darren in a weight watchers ??

    The word pot and kettle spring to mind

    In the wind balast is important

  • Comment number 27.

    Great performance from the Big Man and just goes to show what perserverance coupled with talent can produce. Too often these days young guys have one good performance and are considered world beaters.

    I totally agree, (and I am Scottish) that NI should get an Open Championship. Having travelled to Sandwich (and I live in Kent) I cannot believe that the infrastructure can be any poorer that there. Over an hour and 15 mins from the train arriving at Sandwich to get on the course.

    Looking forward to seeing Darren compete for more wins in coming months.

  • Comment number 28.

    When Darren Clarke sank the final putt we, the ordinary golfers of the world, won The Open - well done Darren and thank you!!

  • Comment number 29.

    How often we say 'May the best man win'. How rarely after the event can we say he did.

  • Comment number 30.

    Well done Darren, a well deserved and heart warming win for a decent man.

    A quick word for Phil Mikelsom who has showed true sportmanship in defeat and is a credit to the game both for the quality of his play and his attitude. A good example of what sport should be about for amateur and professional alike.

  • Comment number 31.

    Getting a bit silly now, this Northern Ireland thing, isn't it?

    PGA coming up next month and it's hard to look beyond Ronan Rafferty. He's not in the field but that's unlikely to stop him.

  • Comment number 32.

    I think I was more emotional than him. I remember what happened when he lost his wife in 2006 and how he came through at the Ryder Cup so soon afterwards.

    As a life coach myself, I can understand what it has taken for him to come out on top. Nevertheless, the individual has to do the work, not the coaches, and Darren has come up trumps and I am so happy for him. He showed such wonderful control over the four days, including putting finger to lips, in order to quieten the crowd down when his playing partner was about to play a shot - great sportsmanship.

    An ordinary bloke, with an extraordinary talent; a nice bloke who has never given up. His future, with his new partner in life, looks set fair and I send his very best wishes.

  • Comment number 33.

    What happened to the man on form Luke Donald...he lost me alot of money. He totally crumbled under the pressure of a major yet again.
    And dont start with World no 2 Westwood...he cant even make the cut in majors now! Its amazing what pressure does to the weak minded!

  • Comment number 34.

    An engrossing event with a smooth outcome.

    I'd have preferred a more suspenseful climax ... e.g. Clarke having to par the last to win and doing it ... but you can't have everything.

  • Comment number 35.

    @ 17

    Nah, come on - Woods is not everyone's cup of tea but you want the greatest player of the modern game at its greatest championship.

    Ian Poulter's the one I'd like to see a little less of.

  • Comment number 36.

    If fred146 (#12) isn't a troll, then he's sadly misguided about the Open. Fred, every single one of the 9 courses on the rotation is a variation on the links theme. It's the landscape that grew the game and is what makes the Open an indispensible Grand Slam championship, like Wimbledon and its grass.
    I've been to an Open at Sandwich and it's an especially good place for the spectator. Go to almost any hillock and you can get a good view of play on at least two holes
    Had some bad experiences on links have you, Fred? Does "great" equal "pretty and playable" for you?

    DC's great performance might give a few golfers outside the OWGR top forty food for thought. Spending a few weeks going round Royal Portrush time after time won't have harmed his chances at all. A different way to prepare than missing a couple more cuts, perhaps?

  • Comment number 37.

    Well done big guy, you deserve it. Couldv'e sunk that par putt though couldnt you..?

    ;)

  • Comment number 38.

    Totally agree with #36...

    It seems the 'done thing' these days to voice your opinions on links golf, and some of the youngsters seem to think The Open isn't worth practicing for.

    Winning The Open on a links course defines you as a player who can switch your game from the plush greenery and sunshine of the PGA, and ultimately makes you a better golfer.

  • Comment number 39.

    Dear Golf,

    We like totally own you now.

    Regards

    Northern Ireland.

  • Comment number 40.

    Brilliant triumph, brilliant come-back after what he's been through in his life. But I hope too that people will also remember how darn well Clarke played these past four days. When the chasing pack starting picking up shots, so did Clarke, and when they began dropping shots, Clarke didn't. A couple of lucky breaks when he hopped over those bunkers, but he was in total control, and in many ways, his win was as convincing as McIlroy's at the US Open.

  • Comment number 41.

    What a exciting and memorable British Open!

  • Comment number 42.

    Much sense spoken above. lets get an Open to Northern Ireland although it's a shame they couldn't just rotate the Irish Open round some of their links courses. Great to see Darren Clarke win and wonderful to see Mickelson, Jimenez et al waiting to congratulate him as he came off the 18th. Clarke winning has rather obsucred the fact that the Americans played incredibly well on a course and in conditions which everyone exepcted them to flounder on, especially the young ones like Fowler and Johnson. By contrast the other high profile Britains were nowhere. One last point, we went to the practice day on Tuesday and we were particularly impressed with how friendly and helpful all the marshalls were. They just need to build a new road in!

  • Comment number 43.

    I have to say the British crowd were very well behaved...you can tell they are well educated in golf. Great Great British Open. Well done to the big Irish man!

  • Comment number 44.

    The beauty of a links course is that on most occasions it takes players out of their comfort zone, a zone with not too much rough, not too many demanding in play bunkers, pristine greens that dont have kinks all over the place.

    If the weather plays its part, you usually get a winner who has to demonstrate all round strengths. mental in the choice of shot and physical in the execution.

    I felt it a little sad that McIlroy was a bit churlish when saying he would not change his game for one tournament. You are just starting out Rory, look at Tom Watson, look at Darren Clarke. They are not "one trick" ponies, not fast track bullies who cant cope with something that is not one dimensional.

    The beauty of links is also that its not just about power,if you cant hit the thing straight you will get punished, quite right. Maybe there should be more Links golf tournamenst full stop ? or would that take the edge off the Open itself ? maybe not, remember the Scottish Open was played on links this year.

    I wrote on Wednesday in response to Ken Brown's choice of 6 to watch,none of the englishmen would be in contention, the Open is won just as much by "where did he come from".

    The likes of Poulter, Westwood etc are extremely fine players but the reality is they are akin to the current Arsenal team, talk a good game,play a good game when the conditions suit,but come squeaky bum time..............................

    2 stand outs this week

    Darren of course and for me, Tom Watson................................. his manners are exemplary in a game where good manners abound, the young englishman who played two rounds with him, ignore how you played, watch Watson and remember............

  • Comment number 45.

    A worthy winner, he certainly posseses the talent but the big question that had been unanswered for so long was whether he would ever fully realise it. The last 4 days proved he could. He did well to keep going yesterday when the inevitable challenges arose but Johnson and especially Mickelson will be kicking themselves for letting Clarke get away. Classic Mickleson - that tiddler on the 11th - a lapse of concentration at a crucial moment It would have been a be a lot tighter if he'd managed to keep things going.

    A penny for Westwood and Donalds thought: After so much hype, so little was subsequently delivered by these two when it really counted

  • Comment number 46.

    Just waiting for Colin Montgomerie to come out of hiding/hibernation, to claim credit for Darren's resurgence i.e. it was clearly the vice captaincy & Monty's influence @ the 2010 Ryder Cup that swung it......

    Darren - a credit to the game. If you are half as nice a guy, in real life, as you seem to be, we couldn't have a more worthy winner. Nice to see your folks there to share the moment.

    NB: can't remember the tournament but can recall DC returning after a delay so see that his lie in the rough had been 'improved'. Unlike a certain Montgomerie, he chose to pitch out sideways rather than take advantage, when he could easily have gone for the green.

    Payback time.......

  • Comment number 47.

    Might be a surprise to all, but Irish golfers have now won as many majors (6) during the last 5 years as Americans have - you'd have got good odds on that back in 2007!!
    Even more amazing, when no European had won a major in the preceding 7 years since Olazabal's Masters victory in 1999 - in that time the Yanks won 20, half by Tiger!!

  • Comment number 48.

    I admit that I was one of many who believed Clarkes best days were behind him and even going into the final round, I thought one of the chasing pack would overhaul him. Great to be proved wrong and I applaud a true and wonderful Champion. Great performance Darren, you deserve all the accolades that you recieve.

  • Comment number 49.

    Just want to congratulate the TV team oncoverage of the Open.I particularly appreciate Wayne Grady and wish him well at the Seniors next week.Ican't make it but will be watching i n Canada

  • Comment number 50.

    #46. That was the Irish Open at Carton House. A class act...................

  • Comment number 51.

    kimbers #47, i take it you meant Paul Lawrie and not Olazabal as last European ( and British ) winner.

    Well done to Darren, a genuine guy who gives us all hope for this Saturdays medal.

  • Comment number 52.

    I have followed Darren's career and am totally overjoyed at his wonderful success. It is true that good things come to those who wait and his long wait is finally over. AWESOME BIG MAN!!

  • Comment number 53.

    A tear came to my eye watching Darren win yesterday. He has been through a lot but he has always shown dignity, courage and good luck to him for finally proving to himself that he is a Major winner......although I think the way he has dealt with everything that life has sent him in the last few years he was always a major winner anyway.

  • Comment number 54.

    How great!!! A man who does not duck questions, has no arrogance, no pretenses and when he talks you feel that you are seeing the real person. What a wonderful change and how reassuring.

  • Comment number 55.

    Would like to add to previous comment re Wayne Grady - he's turning out to be an excellent commentator. Unlike Alliss who can't resist telling us how many Ryder Cups he played in or that he won the Spalding Foursomes in 1956 - time for the pipe n slippers....

  • Comment number 56.

    Well done Darren.

    Must bring up though , .McIroy's whinge about the Open - saying it wasn't his sort of tournament and almost making the inference that Darren was lucky . ( with reference to the draws and the weather ) .

    McIlroy needs to be more gracious and also grow up.

    This is not the first time he has put the boot in about a great Golfing Event . - I seem to remember a few years ago he didn't think the Ryder Cup was up to much either.

  • Comment number 57.

    I'll though out comments from young Rory; "I'm not changing my game to suit one event, we only play links golf one week a year". What about the Dunhill Links? And the one event he was referring to is arguably the biggest of them all!

    Nowhere to be seen on the 18th waiting to congratulate the big man either, despite Darren pulling out of an event to help him celebrate his US Open win. I just hope he was waiting behind the seens and not sulking somewhere.

    Great to see Darren win & also great to see Sergio rediscover the fire in his belly!

  • Comment number 58.

    Not all things that are meant to be actually come to pass, but it's great that this one has.

  • Comment number 59.

    ONE OF THE GREAT DAYS IN GOLF,WELL DONE DARREN YOU DESERVE ALL THE APPLAUSE ,ENJOY!!!

  • Comment number 60.

    #55 Agree re Wayne Grady. Also, it was good to have so much of Jim Nantz this year. A class act, informative without being tedious with it. What an improvement on Sam Torrance's growl. If only they would shed Mark James as well; nobody loves a smart-a**e, and he surely is.

  • Comment number 61.

    Possibly the most popular victory in a major in the history of golf

  • Comment number 62.

    Slightly puzzled at al777's comments on nationality. The BBC were actually at pains to highlight that Lee Westwood, Luke Donald et al were English so, if anything, they were craving an English winner. They got their British winner anyway. Aside from that, a fabulous performance from a genuinely nice guy.

  • Comment number 63.

    Have been going to Portrush, Portstewart and Castlerock to play golf on and off for the last 25 years or so. Love every minute of it over there, including the courses, the hospitality and where their golfers are local heroes, down to earth and accessable - we saw Darren on the putting green at Royal Portrush just 3 weeks ago, totally at ease,no fuss. So thrilled for a thoroughly decent man and fine golfer to triumph in classic Antrim weather! The roadsigns into Portrush will need to be enlarged to now read "Welcome to Portrush, home of US Open Champion Graeme Mcdowell AND Open Champion Darren Clarke"! Have a great party, boys...

  • Comment number 64.

    I've never been so happy watching someone win a sporting event, was in tears at the end. This was the day I started believing in the power of good again, just wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

  • Comment number 65.

    Last 4 years - 4 Irish Major winners
    Last 40 years - 1 Engish winner

    Whats happening? Will an English golfer ever win a major again?

  • Comment number 66.

    It's so good to see Darren finally win a major. He has obviously had to contend with such heartache and pain that it is quite understandable to see that he's struggled for form since 2005ish. I thought the manner in which he won at Sandwich was humbling. His constant acknowledgement of the support he was getting, his obvious enjoyment at the event and his awareness that his partner was still putting for example when the crowd was cheering was a delight to witness. In an age when the biggest sports stars appear to be more celebrity than sport, it was fantastic to watch this "everyman" player remembering his fans and fellow players even in the spotlight of a fabulous victory.

    Well done Darren Clarke, a victory that will long be remembered

  • Comment number 67.

    Big win for a big man with a big heart! Surely there hasn't been a more popular open winner? Another great boost for Northern Ireland. Would love to see the open coming here.

    Well done Darren. Enjoy your celebrations!

    As for Rory, I think all he hype got to him in the end. His comments were maybe a bit ill advised but he's young and will learn.

    (I also agree with #60 in relation to Mark James!)

  • Comment number 68.

    Also a word must be said about the sportsmanship displayed by all of the players. In how many professional sports will you see the two championship leaders aimably chatting to each other as they prepare for the final stage of a tournament (as Clarke and Johnson did as on the 18th)?

  • Comment number 69.

    Where were World number 1 & 2?

    Did they play?

  • Comment number 70.

    I was listening to 5 Live on Saturday near the end of the 3rd round and an American pundit was being interviewed by John Inverdale. He said that he thought the lead was really 4 under par rather than the 5 under par Darren was on a t the time as he dismissed Darren's chance completely of winning. He sounded so arrogant and obnoxious, but I didn't catch his name but I would really like to know who he was and what he is saying now. Anyone know who it was?

  • Comment number 71.

    Congraculations to Darren Clarke.

    I have a more general point. Where does the British Open stand and now that it has become the major where genuine journeyman (Clarke, Hamiton, Curtis, Ousthazen, Cink in the last the decade) can win. Of the genuine greats on Woods/Harrington twice has had his name on the claret jug in the last decade. Therefore is there a danger that the top players will stop attending.

    For me Clarke's victory highlight everything that is currently wrong with the game. There is no player with real gravatas or a games which would tear up a course. Ultimatley this weekend was rather dull and destroyed by the weather.

  • Comment number 72.

    Of course the Open has been to Northern Ireland once already - although not for a very long time - 1951 - Royal Portrush.

    There's no particular reason why it couldn't come back onto the rotation again, provideded there was sufficient space to put the tented village / television crews & equipment / etc. etc.

    Royal Liverpool came back on the rota in 2006 after an absence of 40 years, so Portrush probably could come back on too.

    The other thing to think about from the R&A's perspective is that a large proportion of spectators from England, Wales & Scotland would have to arrive by air. If 100,000 people travelled, that would be quite a few extra flights. You'd probably want to reopen the railway station at Belfast International etc.

  • Comment number 73.

    #71. Clarke a journeyman? You're having a laugh.

    Also, why should the winner be expected to"tear up a course"? That's just ludicrous. They're looking for the "Champion Golfer for the Year", not an American style putting competition.

  • Comment number 74.

    Thought the hero of the week (Clarke was a close second) was Tom Watson. his 72 on Saturday was IMO the best round of the week and he was unlucky the weather relented once the later starters teed off. Dont think he would have won it but im pretty sure he would have been within 4-5 shots of the leaders come yesterdays tee offs. the hole in one on friday was also something special. As it stands this man will only be gracing this tournament for three more years. it will be a very sad day in 2014 when he walks off the 18th at Royal Liverpool hopefully in the final round......

  • Comment number 75.

    @ Dutchjimbo who wrote: "The weird thing about this open was that it seemed to be a better place without Woods being there - long may he stay away!!!"

    Get a grip or a club at that, Tiger Woods' shadow and influence loomed large and the fantastic winner in Mr. Clark acknowledged as much.

    Woods persona may not be everyone's cup of tea, but he still remains golf's most significant player and his standing in the game is still very much revered amongst purists of the sport and fellow professional's alike. The sooner he is back (and in form) competing with the likes of Rory et al, the better for the game!

    So get of the tabloid bandwagon, that's so old news! Every sport needs it's "heroes and villains", but more importantly it thrives best on it's pool of talent and Tiger still remains it's most talented player irrespective and still bridges the gap between the talent of the Rory's and the Clarke's better than most.

  • Comment number 76.

    #71 Did Clarke not "tear up" a course that chewed up and spat out better golfers than a "journeyman" like himself?
    Perhaps the oposite of your ill-informed observation is true. There are not enough shot makers left in the game, I'd rather pay money to watch Clarke, Mickelson, Fowler, Garcia and Watson using great imagination to work their way around a course than the usual long driving putt fests that are most tournaments these days.

  • Comment number 77.

    Absolutely delighted for Darren and Northern Ireland, his demeanour and attitude on the course was a joy to watch, doing his best to relax himself and his playing partners. Best of all was the many occasions he gave a ball to a young lad while walking to the next tee, a moment for each to remember and fans of the sport for life. Plus he played great golf. Now with McIlroy, McDowell and Clarke, Northern Ireland have three superstars to sell it to the world. Build a few more hotels around Portrush or any of the great courses there, and you'll get the Open & Ryder Cups for sure

  • Comment number 78.

    #71 So is a case of "If I don't win I won't play anymore"? If everyone adopted that attitude there wouldn't be many on the pro golf tours. In relation to the weather, its the British Open so you have to expect British weather.

    Rather than being "wrong", Darren's win shows what is right about the game - if you remain committed, focused and determined you will be rewarded.

  • Comment number 79.

    76.At 13:36 18th Jul 2011, MHH wrote:
    #71 Did Clarke not "tear up" a course that chewed up and spat out better golfers than a "journeyman" like himself?
    Perhaps the oposite of your ill-informed observation is true. There are not enough shot makers left in the game, I'd rather pay money to watch Clarke, Mickelson, Fowler, Garcia and Watson using great imagination to work their way around a course than the usual long driving putt fests that are most tournaments these days.


    Well said MHH in response to 71.

    Poulter ? ah yes, he's the twitter man isnt he
    Donald ? ah yes. he's the no1 without winning a major ( thats the equivalent of Murray being no1 above Djokovic, Federer and Nadal)
    Westwood ? still waiting, and waiting
    Rose ?
    Casey ?

    The fact that so called "journeymen" have won the title is as much to do with two things

    1. Mentally tough enough at the squeaky bum time
    2. Able to illustrate an ALL ROUND game.

    The problem with too many modern day golfer's, they want no wind, no rain, no rough, no undulating greens.

    And yet to be the OPEN champion, you are likely to have to overcome most if not all them over the majority of the 4 days. Sure you can get luckier with the weather but hey did Clarke and Westwood go out at roughly the same times ? Did Fowler not master the conditions on the Saturday when playing with McIlroy ?

    Tell me why Watson at nearly 62 remains a competitor ? He is not a 1 trick pony, relying on power first then skill, and is able to adapt to what should at the end of the day be a true test of a champion.

    Laud the likes of Clarke. Thoroughbred, not a show pony


  • Comment number 80.

    I'm so delighted for Darren. He played magnificently and it is wonderful that he has won a Major after all he has been through in the past few years. He's a lovely guy too.

    Well done Darren!

  • Comment number 81.

    Rarely, if ever, can there have been a champion so universally liked by fans and fellow professionals alike. The number of players who greeted him as he walked from the 18th green and then to the presentation ceremony show this. It was great to hear Phil Mickelson talking about the help and support Darren Clarke had given him. This is a man who has overcome many personal and professional demons and become an absolute gentleman that I for one would love to share a pint and smoke with. Well done Darren Clarke!

  • Comment number 82.

    @ 79. John

    Nothing like a bit of England bashing eh? Nice.

    Great to see Clarke win, nice guy and a great player.

    And can I just say how classy were Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson towards Darren? You could tell they were really pleased for him.

  • Comment number 83.

    It is great to read all the plaudits being rightfully bestowed on a very worthy Open champion in Darren Clarke. However, as a fellow Irishman, it makes my blood boil that so many people - pundits, commentators, professional golfers and members of the public alike - wrongly refer to this competition as the "British Open". As the oldest of the 4 majors it has been, is, and will continue to be the "Open Championship". I won't let it annoy me enough to stop smiling at Darren Clarke's superb victory and lets keep the Guinness flowing!!

  • Comment number 84.

    #79 John - Well said!

    What Darren Clarkes win at the British Open is that its the toughest major to win...and it takes a certain type of player to win it.
    The majors in the USA have to be easier to win because we see the same guys up there contending every event and yet none have won the British Open.

    Go on ya Darren.

  • Comment number 85.

    @82 daffy

    I am actually English

    The problem with being English is we go in for OTT hype and over hype, just think of the football team.

    I applaud any sportsman, irrespective of country, who illustrates mental strength combined with natural ability combined with a bit of self effacement (there is a big difference between being confident and being COCKY)

    Clarke was a deserving winner, I just wish 2 years ago, Watson had achieved what he deserved. Those 2 guys display all 3 of attributes I admire.



  • Comment number 86.

    With regards to the BBC coverage, please get rid of the annoying slow motion short videos with the hollywood film soundtrack. Save that over the top pointless irritating rubbish for the Masters. If you have to do it, do it better, show them less frequently and please use some music appropriate to an event hosted in Britain not a hollywood film.

  • Comment number 87.

    85.At 14:32 18th Jul 2011, John wrote:

    I am actually English

    The problem with being English is we go in for OTT hype and over hype, just think of the football team.
    -------------------

    Fair enough and I understand what you say, especially with football, but it's the media who is to blame for that, not the players. Do you really need that as an excuse to shoot down the top players from England? Don't you think they are trying their hardest to win?

    I too was very disapointed with the performances of Westwood, Donald and co but I think it's a very sad state of affairs when people feel the need to come on here and have a go at players from their own country after a bad tournament.

  • Comment number 88.

    oh, mind you, it's not just a one off, you are quite regular at criticising them looking at your post history!

  • Comment number 89.

    re 86

    have you noticed- EVERY sports show on tv starts AND ends with the slow motion action musical number now-10 years ago it was quite novel but now its so old hat and tedious-producers lets have something new

  • Comment number 90.

    I think the main reason people are coming down hard on Westwood and Donald is because these guys are supposedly no 1 & 2 in the world. When was the last time both no 1 & 2 missed the cut in a major? 22 years ago at the US Open.

    and before the event Westwood was saying how he hopes the wind blows very hard and that the conditions are very tough so that it will suit his game....amm...didnt seem like it.

    I think until McIlroy settles down and starts getting more consistant we wont have a real no.1 in the world. So hurry up McIlroy!

  • Comment number 91.

    Congratulations to Darren Clarke for winning The Open Championship. It was a true test of skill and character.

    Well done the green keeping staff who prepared a magnificent course.

    P.S. If you didn't win, don't whinge. Go and practice how to play the best form of golf.

  • Comment number 92.

    Fantastic win for Darren. So pleased for him and his family. As usual the BBC attitude in interviews irritates me. Following on from much publicised gaffes from Clare Balding et al in the past we now had to cringe as in the interview immediately after his win the interviewer ( who's name escapes me) was desperate to refer to the death of Heather and seemed determined to get a reaction from Darren. Am sure Darren like the rest of didn't need reminding and surely in that moment should have been allowed to revel in his victory. Am sure some people might consider this to be thoughful and considerate broadcasting but i think its sensational claptrap of the News of the World level done purely to gain a soundbite or reaction. Shame really because as ever the coverage was superb.

  • Comment number 93.

    No. 92 - I agree, they did exactly the same thing with Thomas Bjorn after his first round. He was asked about the death of his father to get a reaction, the clip of him struggling with his emotions in the press conference was added to the BBC sports website. Also the sports presenter on the BBC this morning was more interested in Darren's brief wobble in the post round interview than any of the highlights from his fantastic display on the course.
    Its the Open not the X-factor!

  • Comment number 94.

    Well done DC, well deserved after the past few years you've been through, BUT...talk about getting the run of the ball (and not for others!) on the day!!

    Glad there doesn't seem to have been any 'the new Tiger' hype going on from bloggers.

    #61..."possibly the most popular victory in a major in the history of golf".....you mean since the last one?

    Sorry, but the BBC's coverage was awful, others have mentioned the cheesy 'slo-mo' sequences, we'd rather have been watching live action. At least Sky's excuse is that they have to pay the bills with ad breaks, or take breaks when the US coverage does.

  • Comment number 95.

    Daffy.

    I understand what you say about the press and getting on their backs but it seems we English these days are deluded, be it especially football or indeed golf.

    A few years back a foreign player in tennis worked the computer rankings system and was able to get to No1 in the world without winning a major.

    I am not a Woods fan ( I think he is a prime example of power and mental toughness for the modern era andt to me he could not hold a candlestick to Nicklaus) BUT he has to be admired because he has walked the walk.

    We english are good on paper (or on Twitter) but are found out at the highest level. Yes the press are to blame to a great extent but do you not feel there is something inherently wrong with the english sportsperson's physche be it on a football pitch or on a golf course ?

    Clarke showed all elements that you need to win, can the english players look at themselves and say the same ? the more pertinent question is will they ever be able to ? I doubt it.



  • Comment number 96.

    Darren might not admit it but I am convinced that, coming into the British Open, he gained in strength of mind and inner belief by the success in America of GMac and Rory. The latter two blazed the trail for Darren to follow and make it an unforgettable 13 months for golf in Northern Ireland.

  • Comment number 97.

    I would think DC's win would be a huge inspiration to his old Ryder Cup partner Mr Westwood. You've just got to keep on plugging away!

    Who would've tipped Darren before last week, even yesterday morning a large proportion of people were thinking he wouldn't make it over the line!

  • Comment number 98.

    Splendid result. Anyone notice Darren smiled his way round the course? A lesson there for some rather grumpy notables who didn't make the final two rounds.

    On the BBC coverage it didn't live up to the commentary from the excellent Wayne Grady. Some important shots were inexplicably missed - The infuriating slow motion which got very old and was very annoying. It didn't seem organised - Expect better next year!

  • Comment number 99.

    Great to see DC win, and here's hoping that it can give him the confidence to keep playing at that level on a more regular basis.

    I also echo the comments on the BBC's coverage - normally their coverage of the Open is fabulous. On Sunday afternoon they also needed to be showing more leaderboards than they did. I don't want to have to press the red button everytime I want to see how things stand.

  • Comment number 100.

    John

    If someone had asked you before round 1 if you thought Darren Clarke had what it takes to win a major, would you honestly have said yes? Or McDowell before the US Open? I very much doubt it.

    So, Westwood and Donald haven't won a major yet, if Clarke can do it at the age of 42 then they've got a fair few years to do it. Donald has had an outstanding year, and have you forgotten how close he was to winning The Masters?

    They haven't managed to pull it off for the 4 days that are the pinnacle of a golfing career, but does that mean they won't do it?

    So to answer your question, will they ever be able to do it? They've got just as much chance as Clarke and McDowell had pre their wins, so yes.

 

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