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.





Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The teaser trailer has provoked more questions than answers
filmBut what is Bond's 'secret' that Moneypenny is talking about?
News
Johnny Depp is perhaps best known for his role as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
peopleBut how did he break it?
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Walker and Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious 5
film
Sport
Lewis Hamilton secured his second straight pole of the season
f1Vettel beats Rosberg into third after thunderstorm delays qualifying
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss