Clarke hopes to make his 'dream come true' with an Open double

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The Independent Online

They subscribe to the London bus theory at International Sports Management and their oldest client is confident of proving here this week that the long wait is often followed by a rapid sequence of arrivals. Darren Clarke hung on for 20 years to win the Open Championship, but he's actually been competing in the Irish Open for 21 years without success.

It was as an amateur in 1990 that the Northern Irishman made his maiden European Tour appearance at Portmarnock, making the cut before finishing 50th. "I've been close on a number of occasions and never quite got the job done – a bit like in the Open," said Clarke, here in Co Kerry yesterday.

ISM is on a roll, with Clarke making it three majors in a row for the agency run by Chubby Chandler. ISM waited 20 years for their first major, until Louis Oosthuizen won last year's Open. Now Clarke's Claret Jug made it four from five. "It would be a hell of an achievement – a dream come true – to have the Open and Irish Open trophies on display back at home," said Clarke who dismissed weekend reports that he was "almost broke" before the Sandwich victory. "To do the double would be unbelievable."

Not that he would be the first. At Killarney in 1992 Nick Faldo had the second of three successive victories in the Irish Open and a month later captured his third Open title in six years, while four years ago at Adare Manor Padraig Harrington ended a 25-year wait for a home winner and two months later triumphed at Carnoustie for the first of his three major titles.

Clarke does already have a victory on Irish soil. That was the European Open at The K Club near Dublin 10 years ago. And in between Harrington's hat-trick and Clarke's success were the back-to-back US Open victories of Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy.

All four compete this week, prompting Clarke to say the scenes "could be like nothing we've seen before". Despite Irish golf being on an unprecedented high, prize-money has been cut in half to £1.32m following the withdrawal of telecommunications company 3, title sponsors the previous three years.

But the event's history is almost assured, with the Stormont Government pledging financial support to take the Irish Open to Royal Portrush in the north and a group of southerners, including J P McManus, ready to bankroll the tournament.