Darren Clarke won the 2011 British Open with a three shot victory over Americans Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson.
As Darren Clarke tapped in his final putt, I was expecting more emotion, tears even. Even in his victory speech, Clarke seemed composed and assured, just like his golf across the final 18 holes. It was as if he expected a major victory, when many others assumed his chance had eluded him.
The 42-year-old became the third Northern Irishman to claim a major victory in the last six majors, along with Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy. He also becomes the oldest major winner since Ben Crenshaw won the US Masters in 1995.
The victory has taken many by surprise and judging by Clarke’s words after the tournament, he was fully aware many wrote him off winning The Open Championship
at his 20th attempt. In response to a journalist also admitting many ‘idiots’ had not given him a chance Clarke was clearly aware of it.
“Hang on,” Clarke said with a grin. “I’m trying to recollect your little line. ‘He’s in his inexorable slide toward irrelevance.’ Is that what you said? I’ve got the paper at home. I can show it to you if you don’t believe me.”
He went on to sip a pint of Guinness.
I believe him. Clarke truly believed time had not passed him by and with the sort of luck he had on course, it’s no wonder.
Twice, Clarke’s golf ball skipped over bunkers most balls would skip into. He managed to save par on both occasions. But there was plenty of golf that wasn’t luck. His eagle putt on the 7th, after Mickelson had done the same thing moments earlier to draw level was the stuff of a champion. Clarke’s clutch putting for par was superb all day, and only marred by bad strokes on 17 and 18, when it was all over.
Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson made a mockery of any suggestion that Americans can’t play links golf.
Fowler barely cracks a smile on course but his ball striking made plenty of others smile. Without ever threatening on Sunday, he played some magical shots and there is no doubt he will contend many future majors.
Phil Mickelson’s opening ten holes was phenomenal. He made up six shots to draw level with Clarke at one point but it all went awry from the moment he missed a two foot on the 11th.
Dustin Johnson’s day was as unpredictable as the weather. He fell out of contention then came back into the frame with three birdies in four holes. He then crashed back out of contention with a shank out-of-bounds on the 14th hole, making it four major championships he has fallen on the final day, when victory was in sight.