IN 139 previous editions of The Open there can never have been a more popular winner than Darren Clarke and it’s hard for me to express just how happy I am for him.
He’s been through more than most in his career but he’s remained generous and easygoing throughout and now he’s got the prize his talent as a sportsman deserves.
Darren might have gone 10 years without challenging for a Major but I never had any doubt he’d see the job through. His round of 69 on the Saturday, which included just 34 putts, told me all I needed to know.
He’s got such a beautifully uncomplicated swing perfect for the demands of Royal St George’s and with his putting stroke working equally well it never looked like he was liable to do something silly.
The conditions were pretty treacherous but having grown up playing links golf in Northern Ireland he would have been comfortable with the challenge and he coped admirably – even the sight of Phil Mickelson bearing down on him didn’t fluster him – and I’m sure the feeling of having won a tournament recently helped to take some of the pressure off.
Darren’s victory means Northern Ireland has produced three Major winners in little over a year and it represents a truly staggering achievement. I’m not sure what they’re putting in the Guinness over there but I wouldn’t mind a swig of it.
I’m sure the success of Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy helped rub off on Darren. Those guys are really tight and I wouldn’t be surprised if they spurred each other on to further success in the Majors.
It was a disappointing week for the other big home hopes but I don’t think the likes of Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter will be panicking too much.
Darren’s victory showed them good things do indeed come to those who wait and he’s such a popular guy on tour that I’m sure they’re celebrating his win as hard as they would’ve done had they broken their Major duck.
Elsewhere, Thomas Bjorn’s performance deserves a mention while young amateur Tom Lewis looks certain to be a star of the future. I was impressed by the way he handled himself and if Tom Watson thought he had something special then who am I to argue? Ultimately, however, it was Darren’s week and his win provides yet another fairytale story from a tournament which never fails to live up to its billing as the greatest of them all.
Veteran targets more Major wins
HE MAY not have been to bed yet since his Open victory on Sunday afternoon, but Darren Clarke is already dreaming – of more Major titles.
The Ulsterman waited 42 years for his first, but has relished the taste and is eager to make up for lost time in the twilight of his career.
“I want more. I don’t want to just rest on one,” said Clarke yesterday, after spending the night toasting his triumph at Sandwich.
“I had quite a few pints and quite a few glasses of red wine. I probably won’t get any sleep until tomorrow at some stage. You have to enjoy it when you can. It’s been a very good night.”
Clarke, who famously helped Europe win the 2006 Ryder Cup just weeks after his wife’s death, hopes his win will boost his captaincy chances.
“It’s definitely still an ambition,” he said. “And if I get the opportunity, I may have a little bit more respect from players having been a Major champion.”