So much for Tiger Woods not playing any part in this Open Championship. Darren Clarke last night revealed how the former world No 1's text-messaged advice helped him to win his first major.
"I had a couple of really good messages from Tiger," said Clarke. "He was giving me a couple of bits of advice, which was brilliant. It made it easier than what it otherwise might have been." Woods was absent with knee and Achilles injuries, but watched from his Florida home as his long-time friend became the oldest player to win his first major since 1967.
Rory McIlroy also sent a text message to Clarke. It was exactly the same as the one Clarke texted to McIlroy before his US Open victory last month: "Go out there and show them how good you are." After finishing in a tie for 25th, McIlroy exclaimed: "Northern Ireland is now golf capital of the world!"
Later, Clarke paid an emotional tribute to the wife he lost to cancer five years ago: "There's obviously somebody who is watching down from up above and I know she'd be very proud of me. She'd probably be saying, 'I told you so'. But I think she'd be more proud of my two boys at home more than anything else."
Heather Clarke, the mother of Clarke's two sons, passed away after a long battle with cancer five years ago. "This is for the kids [Tyrone and Conor]," said Clarke. "They played golf at Royal Portrush this morning and were watching on TV."
Having been ranked way down in 111th, Clarke is not only up to 30th in the rankings but has also guaranteed himself spots in all four majors for at least the next five years. He heads to Atlanta for next month's USPGA not trying for his own double but also for a four-timer coined the "Chubby Slam".
Clarke is the third member of the International Sports Management (ISM) stable to win a major this year, following the victories of Charl Schwartzel and McIlroy in the Masters and US Open respectively.
"I haven't seen Darren like that since the Match Play in Costa in 2000 when he beat Tiger in the final," said Chubby Chandler the ISM supremo, who has managed Clarke for 21 years. "Darren has had a lot of shots at it and you think time might be running out – but then it all happens."
Clarke is determined to ensure it doesn't end here. "My ambitions are to win another couple of these things," he said, pointing at the Claret Jug. "What else can I do? Can I retire and say that's it? I can't. I don't want to rest on this. I want to keep on going, keep on working, because my golf was obviously very good this week. I still feel I can compete with the best in the world."
Certainly he won't be 200-1 again any time soon, as he was coming into this championship. This was the 54th major of Clarke's career and he had not enjoyed a top 10 finish in any of them for a decade. "It's pretty amazing," he said. "It's been a dream since I've been a kid to win the Open, and it feels incredible, incredible. It's been a long journey to get here. I'm 42 and I'm not getting any younger."
Where there's winners, inevitably, there are losers. This is an all too familiar role for Dustin Johnson, who was playing his third final group in the last six majors. This time his challenge was wrecked by a shank on out of bounds on the 14th. "That double bogey really took the momentum out of me," said the 27-year-old. "If I had to do it over again I wouldn't hit the two-iron there. I was trying to hit a low little draw. I probably should have hit three wood."
Clarke's life and times
* 1968 Born 14 August, Dungannon
* 1989 First amateur victory in the East of Ireland Championship.
* 1990 Turns professional.
* 1993 Beats Nick Faldo and Vijay Singh by two shots to win Alfred Dunhill for first European Tour win
* 1997 Ties second at Open at Troon, three shots behind Justin Leonard. Part of European Ryder Cup-winning side.
* 1998 Finishes eighth at the Masters, his best showing at a US major
* 2000 Beats Tiger Woods 4&3 to become first European to win the Match Play Championship. Finishes second in European Order of Merit.
* 2001 Ties third at the Open, his third top-10 finish in the event in five years.
* 2003 Wins NEC Invitational in Ohio.
* 2006 Wife Heather passes away after suffering from breast cancer.
* 2010 Vice-captaincy role as Europe regain Ryder Cup. Announces engagement to former model Alison Campbell.