x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Darren Clarke tames weather to win British Open

Northern Ireland celebrates another major winner with Clarke proving the steadiest in testing conditions, winning by three strokes at Royal St George's.

Darren Clarke is the third Northern Irishman to win a major in the space of 13 months after Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy's triumphs.
Darren Clarke is the third Northern Irishman to win a major in the space of 13 months after Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy's triumphs.

SANDWICH, ENGLAND // Darren Clarke last night dedicated his British Open win to his two sons who were watching on television as he claimed his first major title at the age of 42 at Royal St George’s.

Clarke carded a final round of 70 in tough conditions to finish three shots clear of the American pair Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, with Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn a shot further back in fourth – eight years after he blew a three-shot lead here with four holes to play.

“It’s just incredible, I don’t know what to say. I’m speechless,” said Clarke, who lifted the Claret Jug at his 20th attempt. “I played OK today, I did what I needed to do.

“The last couple of holes I was trying not to make any stupid mistakes. I just tried to play really carefully and it was good enough to win.”

Clarke’s wife Heather died in 2006 after a long battle with cancer and the Ulsterman dedicated the win to their sons Tyrone and Conor.

“It’s for the kids,” an emotional Clarke said. “They played Royal Portrush this morning and were watching on TV.”

Clarke was playing the 54th major of his career and had not had a top 10-finish in them for a decade, but did claim his 13th European Tour title in Majorca in May.

“I won six weeks ago and the more you put yourself in winning positions the more comfortable you get with it and I’ve been very comfortable with myself this week,” he said.

Speaking at the prize-giving ceremony, he said: “It’s been a long and bumpy road, I have had some good things happen to me and some bad things, but I’ve had so much support from an awful lot of people.

Mickelson, whose wife Amy and mother Mary are both recovering from breast cancer, said: “I’m really happy for Darren.

“He was one of the first people that called us, Amy and I, a couple years ago. He’s been through this and couldn’t have been a better person to talk to.

“We talked for a few hours a couple of times, just to know what to expect and what they went through and what worked and what didn’t and some of the mistakes they made and so forth and the fears that he had.

“He’s been through it all and so I was very appreciative of the time we spent. He’s a tremendous person and a very good friend, and I couldn’t be happier for him. It was fun to try to make a run at him.”

A rash of missed putts on the back nine took Mickleson out of contention after he briefly joined Clarke at the top of the leader board.

And Johnson was within two strokes of the lead when he made a huge blunder, knocking an iron shot out of bounds from the 14th fairway. He wound taking a double-bogey that ended his chances.

Spain’s Sergio Garcia was satisfied with his week after finally breaking par in his fourth round.

“I started really well, made a couple of great putts early on and got to four under after seven,” he said.

“Unfortunately I had a little hiccup on eight [a double bogey] but played nicely after that and had some good opportunities.”

* Compiled by The national staff with agencies

Final Leaderboard

Player    Round    Score
D Clarke    70    -5
P Mickelson 68    -2
D Johnson  72    -2
T Bjorn  71    -1
C Campbell  69    Par
A Kim  70    Par
R Fowler  72    Par
R Jacquelin  69    +1
S Garcia  68    +2
S Dyson 70    +2
D Love III  72    +2