Darren Clarke wins the British Open against the odds

So much for having his best days behind him - Darren Clarke today became the oldest Open champion since 1967 and sparked yet another party across Northern Ireland.





Just a month after Rory McIlroy became the youngest US Open winner since 1933 and a year after Graeme McDowell's triumph in the same event, Clarke joined them in the major club with an astonishing performance at Sandwich.

The 42-year-old, 111th in the world and viewed more as a mentor for his 22-year-old compatriot McIlroy than a contender when they practised together last Wednesday, lifted the Claret Jug at his 20th attempt.

He did so by three shots from Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, extending America's record barren spell in the four majors to six going back to Mickelson's victory in last year's Masters.

"It's incredible - it really is," said Clarke, becoming emotional when mention was made of his two sons, left motherless in 2006 when his wife Heather died of breast cancer.

"It's for the kids," he added.

Nobody has ever waited so long and then won The Open, yet with a closing 70 in more wind and rain Clarke finished his 54th major with a five-under-par total of 275.

The former Ryder Cup star - hero of the 2006 victory six weeks after he lost his wife - could even enjoy the walk up the final fairway knowing the job was done.

He had just dropped a shot on the 17th and could even afford to three-putt the last for another bogey.

With that Clarke, with his two sons at home in Portrush, punched the air repeatedly, took his cap off and waved it to all parts and hugged caddie John Mulrooney.

Dane Thomas Bjorn, fourth this time, failed to hang on to a three-shot lead with four to play on the course in 2003, but Clarke never looked like tossing away a four-shot lead handed to him when Johnson went out of bounds on the 14th and Mickelson ran up four bogeys in six holes.

"I'm a bit speechless," Clarke stated. "The last couple of holes I was trying not to make stupid mistakes and just play really careful."

Mickelson, who like Clarke made his debut in 1991, had earlier charged into the joint lead by playing the first seven in an incredible five under par, but he came home in 38 and had to settle for improving his previous best Open finish of third at Troon seven years ago.

Only two players have ever won their first major when older than Clarke - 45-year-old Jerry Barber at the 1961 US PGA and 44-year-old Roberto De Vicenzo at the 1967 Open.

And in The Open alone only three champions have been older than Clarke - De Vicenzo, Harry Vardon and Old Tom Morris.

Not that he was the lowest-ranked player to triumph at Royal St George's, however. Ben Curtis was 396th eight years ago.

Clarke had the vital initial boost of a 15-foot par putt on the first, then went two ahead with a five-footer on the next and three in front when he saved par on the difficult short third from nine feet and Johnson missed from six.

A drive into rough on the fourth - the hardest hole on the course all week - led to his first bogey of the day, but he could never have expected that as he parred the next he would be caught by Mickelson.

Plenty had birdied the second, but when he added another from 14 feet for only the second one all weekend on the fourth the charge was on.

Mickelson went to three under for the day by finding the target from almost 30 feet on the short sixth, then hit his second to 25 feet at the 564-yard next and eagled it to go joint top.

The weather was starting to turn nasty at that stage, but Clarke has often prospered in such conditions in the past and he did again when he answered Mickelson's eagle with one of his own from slightly shorter range.

Two in front again as a result, he stayed there with a real "luck of the Irish" moment at the 412-yard ninth when his low recovery from the left rough skipped over a bunker and found the green.

His par there took him to the turn in 33, brilliant in its own right but outshone by Mickelson's remarkable best-of-the-week 30 - and that he had missed 10-foot chances at the eighth and ninth.

There was one between them when the American made an 18-footer on the next, but he missed a three-foot par attempt on the next, a six-footer at the 13th, had another bogey after driving into sand two holes later and three-putted the 16th.

Johnson was four back at the turn, birdied the 10th and 12th to move into second place, but then hit his second shot out of bounds down the long 14th - the hole where Swede Henrik Stenson had taken 11 earlier in the day.

His double bogey seven gave Clarke an even bigger cushion than Bjorn had had in 2003. Bjorn could not complete the task, but Clarke did - and let the party begin.

He had just become £900,000 richer and at a stroke - or rather 275 of them - had moved back into the game's top 30.





PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker